For a two-year period starting from 2002, I was stationed at the Cambodian Ministry of Justice as a long-term specialist in the Legal System Development Project for Supporting Important Policy. The project was implemented by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Through my position, I was involved in drafting of civil code and civil procedure code in Cambodia.
Other representatives of Chuo University were involved in the project. Professor Masahiko Omura (currently Representative Director, Chair of the Board) was a member of the working committee for drafting civil procedure code. Professor Keita Sato was in charge of the intellectual property field and drafted bills as a part of the civil code working committee. I was given my own workspace in the Cambodian Ministry of Justice. Through my role as a specialist stationed on-site, I served as a liaison between the Japanese working committee and Cambodian drafting groups, fulfilling a role similar to a coordinator.
In the 1970s, the Pol Pot government in Cambodia invalidated all previous laws. Social systems including private property systems were abolished. Intellectuals were massacred or fled the country. Even after the fall of the Pol Pot government in 1979, civil war continued in the country and rebuilding of Cambodia was difficult without support from other countries. The country did not even possess fundamental national law. To assist in the building of a new country, France assisted with criminal law and criminal procedure law, while Japan helped with civil code and civil procedure code. In addition to lacking laws, Cambodia did not have a system to nurture judges and attorneys. The courts were corrupt, and violence and self-help were rampant in Cambodian society.
It was my first experience living in a society without a civil code. I recognized the important role fulfilled by law in eliminating violence from society and enabling all citizens to live with peace of mind. I also recognized how legal professionals are essential for protecting the rights of citizens and extending the rule of law across society. Consequently, I worked to build a system for nurturing legal profession in Cambodia.
The efforts of drafters from Japan and Cambodia were successful. The civil procedure code was promulgated in 2006 and the civil code in 2007. Afterwards, all Japanese staff members (including Professor Masahiko Omura, Professor Keita Sato, and myself) who assisted in drafting laws were awarded the Royal Order of Sahametrei.
Subsequently, the project continued in a different form. Even today, activities continue to assist in the spread of the civil code and the civil procedure code. I was thrilled when I learned that Fumie Fukuoka, a Chuo University graduate who had worked as a prosecutor, had been dispatched to Cambodia from March 2019 as a long-term specialist in the project. (Please refer to the article issued on March 1, 2018, entitled Would You Like to be Involved in Activities for Legal Technical Assistance?