Law homework on a Monday morning

This morning I helped C. and S. with their homework. This started simply enough, with their bright cheery smiles and a hand motion to join them upstairs. They cracked open the thick green book, though, and that’s when I remembered they’re studying International Law. In English. So, I read passage after passage of dense, jargon-filled text to help them answer four questions about international custom, treaties, general principles of law, and, somewhere in there, the Hague and Geneva and something about fisheries. Holy goodness. I forget sometimes about how difficult their studies are. I teach English from a very rudimentary ESL book, and we talk about “window shopping in Hong Kong” and “What’s happening between Agrippine and her mother in this cartoon”. (Yes, Agrippine is not my first choice of a character’s name either….)

They study at Royal University of Law & Economics, which has this to say about its history. I remembered why it’s so important to study law here, despite the challenge:


From 1975 to 1981, the Faculty of Law and Economics was closed, during and after the Pol Pot regime. During those years almost all legal professionals were killed or fled the country. Law books were destroyed. At the end of Pol Pot regime, only six licensed members of the legal profession remained alive in Cambodia. The former campus of the Faculty of Law was reopened in 1982 as the Administrative and Judicial School. The main purpose of this School was to train the new government officials who were responsible for Administration and Judicial duties (in service or on the job training). The training was organized to assist the socialist authorities after the liberation from the genocidal regime of Pol Pot and to respond to its urgent needs. Three different programs were developed subsequently: a five-month program, then a two- month program and a two-year program. Because the majority of the legal professionals had been killed, there were no teachers available, so a five-month program and overall curriculum were organized by Vietnamese experts and were taught through interpreters. Some of the first group of graduates were selected to be the teachers and assistant teachers for next courses. These newly created teachers began teaching the two-year program. The five-month training program was discontinued in 1989.

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