Southeast Asia 2004 - 2008 Program

Untitled Document


The Pol Pot regime, in a truly literal sense, “killed all the lawyers”.

Since elections were held in 1993, the nucleus of a Bar has been working to provide skills training to the small but growing number of lawyers in Cambodia and to provide legal aid, which is now a critical function of the Bar.

We have been working with the Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia  (BAKC), with funding support of the CIDA Partnership, to provide advocacy skills to lawyers, to provide guidance, based on the Canadian experience, in relation to a functioning legal aid system, and to strengthen the development of the legal profession.

Although Cambodia did have a bar admission school and process prior to 1975, from 1975 to 1995 the legal system and its institutions essentially ceased to exist. A few years after the end of Pol Pot’s regime, law schools’ began to produce graduates, many of whom wanted to attend bar school and be admitted to the bar, however there was no real process or practical training for admission to the bar.¬† Increasing the number of lawyers in Cambodia was and is viewed as extremely important to Cambodia's further development and to strengthening the rule of law.

In 2002, the BAKC received authorization from the Cambodian government to establish a Lawyers Training Centre (LTC) for the delivery of a bar admission program for the licensing of new lawyers in Cambodia. The CBA, together with the Japanese Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA) and the Bar of Lyon, agreed to support the BAKC’s efforts to establish and deliver the new bar admission program at the LTC.¬† The CBA’s role in supporting the 2002-2003 program at the LTC was to provide Canadian lawyers to assist in preparing and teaching several LTC courses.¬† The courses supported by the CBA were taught between April and June 2003 and the first graduating class from the LTC were admitted to the Bar of Cambodia in December 2004.¬† The CBA is continuing this support.

The CBA has maximized assistance to Cambodia through providing training to other legal professionals in conjunction with the training support to the LTC.  The CBA has provided training to future judges and prosecutors attending the Royal School for Judges and Prosecutors (RSJP) and to arbitrators of the Arbitration Council of Cambodia (, an independent tribunal established by law in 2003 to handle collective labor disputes.


  • In 1998, the CBA-sponsored study tour to Canada created partnerships between Legal Aid Cambodia, the Cambodian Defenders Project and the Bar that led to the organization of effective delivery of legal aid through the Bar, which prior to the tour, had not been achieved.
  • The skills of lawyers in Cambodia were strengthened through the series advocacy sessions that were developed and delivered in 2001-2002 (Advocacy Training Program).¬†
  • The BAKC developed a comprehensive training program based on the Advocacy Training Program for the LTC.
  • A series of Bar Admission Training modules were successfully delivered between 2003 and June 2006.
  • Lawyers trained in practical skills qualified to provide legal services in Cambodia and admitted to the Bar of Cambodia.
  • Increased knowledge of judges and prosecutors through seminars delivered at the Royal School for Judges and Prosecutors (RSJP) in 2004 and 2006.
  • Assistance provided to Bar Council in the development of a strategic plan by the BAKC in 2004 with funding support from CIDA’s La Francophonie Program.
  • Increased capacity of professors at LTC and RSJP in using participatory training methodologies to teach skills through training workshop delivered in August 2004 with funding support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
  • Increased knowledge of arbitrators of Arbitration Council of Cambodia through training session in 2006.


The CBA has been working with the Lao Bar Association (LBA ) since 2004 to strengthen the legal profession in Lao with funding support from CIDA Partnership. The LBA is a young organization having been established in its current form by the government of Lao PDR in 1996, under the supervision of the Ministry of Justice. The Lao government has made a commitment to improve governance and strengthen the rule of law in Lao.  

The challenges for the legal profession in Lao are significant. The concept of a lawyer as an advocate for the public is not understood by the public, judges, prosecutors, police, government officials, or even fully by many of the lawyers themselves. As there was effectively no legal profession in Lao before the establishment of the LBA , there is a lack of capacity in practical skills of a lawyer. Additionally, the role and responsibilities of a bar association to govern the legal profession, including the ethical issues involved, is not well understood.

As increasing understanding of the legal profession is critical in Lao, the CBA has developed relationships with the Faculty of Law and Political Science, National University of Laos and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) Project at the Faculty of Law.


  • Increased the understanding of strategic planning by the LBA through a workshop held in July 2004 with funding from CIDA’s La Francophonie Program.
  • Assisted the LBA to assess their training needs and develop the next phase of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) support project to the LBA through two UNDP consultancies in December 2004 and January 2006.
  • Strengthened the skills of LBA members through a Lawyers Skills Training Workshop delivered in December 2005 to all members of the LBA in Vientiane, Lao PDR. Additional funding support for this workshop was received from the UNDP LBA Project.
  • Increased the knowledge and skills of law professors at the Faculty of Law and Political Science, National University of Laos, to teach lawyer skills using participatory methodologies in August 2006. This training was supported by the SIDA Project at the Faculty of Law.
  • Increased facilitation skills of LBA members to teach lawyer skills using participatory methodologies through assisting with the August 2006 Faculty of Law training (SIDA Project).
  • Increased the understanding of the LBA and Ministry of Justice in governance and regulation of the legal profession with a Governance Workshop, October 2006.
  • Increased the understanding of Lao law students on the role of lawyers in a system of rule of law through a seminar delivered in October 2006.


In Vietnam we have worked with our partners, the Vietnamese Lawyers Association (LBA) to assist them with critical law reform initiatives and to encourage them to develop their organization capacity, particularly with respect to their capacity to undertake continuing professional training for their members. With funding from the UNDP in 2005 we worked with the LBA to develop a project proposal for the UNDP that would support continued institutional capacity building within the LBA.

In 2006 an important development for the legal profession in Vietnam took place with the enactment of the Law on Lawyers. This law establishes a national Vietnamese Lawyers Federation which will have some regulatory responsibilities over lawyers; responsibilities that were previously held by the Ministry of Justice. 


  • A study tour in 1997 provided critical input into the new Commercial Code and particularly the proposed personal property security regime, a key to encouraging investment and economic development in Vietnam.
  • A study tour in 1999 provided input into the development of a legal aid regime for Vietnam to increase access to justice and to engage in public education.
  • A workshop on the role of an independent Bar resulted in the Government withdrawing legislation that would have put the Bar more directly under the control of government.
  • UNDP support for the development of the profession in Vietnam.
  • Increased the understanding of Vietnam lawyers in governance and regulation of the legal profession through a Governance Workshop held in October 2006 with the LBA and several provincial bar associations. Additional funding support was received from the Danish International Development Agency (Danida) Joint Project Support Office in Vietnam.