Kep – Part I

I spent my last full weekend in the beachside town of Kep, which is about a 2 hour drive from Phnom Penh. It’s a sleepy, quiet village with not much to do.  In other words, it was perfect!  I stayed at a resort called Veranda, which is up on a hill overlooking the Gulf of Thailand. It reminded me of the Ewok Village from Star Wars VI. There were dogs and cats everywhere. For me, they were a fun addition to the experience, although I could understand how others might think dogs and cats wandering through the kitchen and dining area might be unsatisfactory.  Here’s my room.

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Kep is a small village on the southern coast of Cambodia.

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My dining companion on Friday night.

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My second dining companion.

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View from the dining area, sans cats and dogs.

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The walkways at night.

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Kep was a 2 hour drive from Phnom Penh.  My driver was fast (great) but honked his horn at everything and everyone he passed (not great) and also burped the whole time (really not great).  I knew I was leaving Phnom Penh, a major city, when the political signs changed from those of the ruling party (CPP) to the opposition (CNRP), which tends to have more support in the rural areas.

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Lots of cats at this resort.

More after the jump …

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Rule of Law

I continue to be very busy teaching and having a great time in Cambodia. Last week, I lectured a bit on legal research techniques, a subject made challenging because of the lack of publicly available laws and judicial opinions in Cambodia (more on that later). This week, I am teaching about e-mail and letter writing, building on more complicated legal analyses.

I’m also spending some time learning more about rule-of-law activities in Cambodia.  Generally speaking, Rule of Law is the principle that law and legal standards should govern a nation, not the arbitrary whims of particular government officials. There are many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that have been hard at work trying to help the Cambodian people and their government to build out their legal system on the principle of rule of law.

This morning, I met with attorneys and staff of the American Center for International Labor Solidarity. ACILS is a worldwide organization affiliated with the AFL-CIO that strives to improve working conditions and labor standards throughout the world. Its office was some distance away from my hotel (about a 40 minute tuk-tuk ride), but I really enjoyed getting to meet the staff there.

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Meeting with ACILS attorneys and staff.

ACILS is doing great work to help workers obtain fair wages, safe working conditions, and the ability to bargain collectively without retaliation. You can read more about its work here. I was invited to speak with them about legal writing and effective communication to different global audiences.

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A cute, friendly dog that came up to me at ACILS’ office.

Later, I had lunch with Rene Gradwohl, the head of the Cambodia office of Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, a German political foundation that works on rule-of-law activities.

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L-R: Me, Rene Gradwohl, Tom Pearson (Program Director of the International Master of Laws Programs at RULE)

KAS conducts trainings and publishes books and other materials to help countries with establishing and then reinforcing democratic principles. Tomorrow, for example, they are conducting a training workshop on legislative drafting.  KAS is also working to assist political processes, media development, participation in government, and foreign policy dialogue.

KAS publishes many of its materials online for free. One very helpful resource that I consulted early on—in fact, as soon as I learned that I was headed to Cambodia—was this book, an Introduction to Cambodian Law.

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Now, off to prepare for class!

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Saigon for the Weekend

This weekend, I hopped on a 25 minute plane ride to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon), Vietnam.  The American-Vietnam War defines many of the traditional tourist places here. It was interesting to see historical events from a different perspective.

I started off at the Reunification Palace (also known as Independence Palace), made popular by this photo, showing a North Vietnamese tank crashing through its gates during the fall of Saigon:

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More, including the War Remnants Museum, Cu Chi Tunnels, a puppet show, and the Saigon Opera House, after the link.

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Angry Birds and Intellectual Property Law in Cambodia

I had lunch the other day with an IP lawyer, and the issues he’s dealing with on behalf of his clients  are fascinating. In Cambodia, intellectual property law—broadly speaking, the legal protection of inventions, ideas, trademarks, and artistic words—is not quite the same as in the United States and poses a challenge for both domestic and international attorneys.

Consider the “Angry Birds School,” a private school:

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Angry Birds Foreign Language School. It may be tough to tell from this photo, but the logo contains the red bird from Angry Birds. Source: Phnom Penh Post.

As reported by the Phnom Penh post at the time of the school’s opening:

Cambodia youths have taken to the characters from the popular game Angry Birds like fish to water – or a bird to the sky as the case may be – proudly plastering the adversarial avian avatars on everything from T-shirts to motorbikes.

Now, a school director in Banteay Meanchey province is banking on the assumption that kids will also want to attend a school unofficially endorsed by the bellicose birds.

The Angry Birds Foreign Language School – which serves children as young as 6 and as old as 15 – was created about a month ago in Banteay Meanchey’s Serei Sophorn town, a rural outpost that school director Yem Nary said could be improved by education, with the help of a little savvy marketing.

“I had an idea that if I created a school and gave it a strange name to attract the children, then they would ask their parents to study at my school,” she explained.

Flying on the backs of such popular characters, Nary said, has drawn in more than 50 students, all of whom come in curious about the name.

Without the furious fowls, she maintained, the school – which charges 10,000 riel (US$2.50) per month – would have folded immediately given that private schools in Serei Sophorn have closed in the past for lack of students.

But for all the help they’ve been in Nary’s endeavour, the creators of Angry Birds are, to her knowledge, unaware of the school, given that Nary herself did not ask permission to use the logo.

“I did not use it for selling, or to put on a product and sell it,” she said, expressing her belief that the copyright holders wouldn’t squawk at the liberty she’s taken.

“But if they said I use this logo illegally, I can change it, but I used it to only attract the students.”

Well, of course, she is using the Angry Birds name to sell something, in this case tuition, but this seems likely to fly below the radar, like launching one of the Angry Birds at low altitude to destroy the pigs’ hideout.

I’ve also heard that there’s a “Facebook School” and, driving to the airport today, I saw the CIA First International School.  I guess having a catchy name for a school is important! Interestingly, CIA First’s website says they are accredited by WASC, a regional accreditor in the U.S.

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There are also interesting copyright issues.  In general, Cambodia extends protection only to works that are registered in Cambodia.  Foreign works do not automatically enjoy copyright protection, at least not yet.  This is an area of rapid movement, as Cambodia is a recent party to the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Cambodia has until 2021 to come into full compliance with TRIPS, including regulations related to foreign works.

More here and here.

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Reflections on the First Week of Teaching

For the four weeks that I’m in residence at the Royal University of Law and Economics, I am teaching in two LL.M. programs: one in public international law and the other in international business law. Each program is two years in length, but students take the first year together as one cohort.  For each program, I am teaching short courses on Legal Research and Writing. On Tuesday nights, I teach the first year students in both programs in a combined class.  On Wednesday evenings, I meet with second year students in the public international program, while on Thursdays I teach second year students in the international business degree program.

So far, I have had one class with each group.  Since I have only four weeks with them, my goal is pretty modest: to introduce them to basic concepts of legal writing and analysis in English. As my lawyer-friends know, the heart of legal writing is the IRAC formula: stating an issue, defining and explaining the relevant rule or legal standard, applying the facts to the law, and drawing a conclusion.

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Second year (“M2”) public international students working on an in-class writing assignment.

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Getting ready for first year (“M1”) class.

Last week, I started out the classes with the IRAC formula, and they wrote simple paragraphs with straightforward rules.  For homework, they had to write a single issue problem with multiple subissues involving the New York burglary statute.  Several students have turned in their work already, and I have been impressed! Although not all of the students have legal backgrounds, they have caught on quickly.  An emphasis of the class is on factual analysis (the “A” in IRAC) rather than mere regurgitation of legal rules and so far they seem to be engaging with the facts pretty ably.

I am trying to keep class sessions simple, with lecture, demonstration, practice, and group feedback.  Repeating this process over and over, the students will hopefully come away from the classes with an understanding of the “formula” that lawyers use to convey legal analysis in written form.

This week, I’ll be covering legal research as well as writing about rules (the “R” in IRAC) using statutes from both Cambodia and the United States. Teaching research will be interesting, for reasons I’ll save for another post.

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Siem Reap – Day 3 – Food!

I got rained out today, so no more temples for me. Instead, I decided to explore Khmer cuisine by taking a cooking class with the chef of the hotel, Johnny. We began by picking up local ingredients at the local open air market.

Pictures after the jump.

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Siem Reap – Day 2 – Temples

I spent the day exploring the ruins of Angkor, the capital city of the Khmer Empire (9th-15th centuries). I hired a driver with an air conditioned car (a must given the oppressive heat and humidity). We actually went in reverse order of the way the temples are presented here, but it’ll make more sense seeing them in the typical order in which tourists see them. My driver, who was very good, took me in reverse order so I would avoid the crowds. After each temple, he had a bottle water and cold towel waiting for me. Although it was drizzling in the morning, I was fortunate to be visiting at the tail end of the rainy season, since it made the colors of the forest so much more vivid. One gets the sense that there is a constant struggle between the people who are restoring the ruins and the jungle, which relentlessly pushes back to reclaim its land.

At its peak, Angkor was a huge metropolis.  Between 1010 and 1220, 0.1% of the world’s population lived there. There are thousands of temples to explore, many of which have been swallowed up by the forests. Although most of Angkor was abandoned during warfare in the 15th century, Angkor Wat—believed to be the largest religious monument—existed continuously.  Scientists are using technology to discover even more ruins. Angkor is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

What follows are slideshows of the following temples: Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm (fans of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider may recognize it), Ta Keo, Angkor Thom, Baksei Chamkrong, and Prasat Bei. With apologies, I saw so many temples that I may not have divided them accurately.

Angkor Wat

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Ta Prohm

Also known as the “Lara Croft” temple since a portion of Tomb Raider was filmed there. The jungle really is taking over these ruins.

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Ta Keo

I climbed to the top. Afterwards, my driver said that I was brave, since tourists often fall and break limbs. Just last week, he had someone break a leg. I said thanks for telling me afterwards. 😀

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Angkor Thom

This was the capital of the Khmer Empire. A huge complex.

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Baksei Chamkrong and Prasat Bei

These were my first temples/ruins of the day, and I was the only one at them. They’re on the smaller side, and the major tour companies took their customers to the more major sites. I was alone the whole time, except, as you’ll see, for some animals that were very curious to see me.

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There was a lot of wildlife:

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