From Cambodia to Lund to study at the Master's Programme in International Human Rights Law.

From a Cambodian Village to Lund to Study Human Rights

Rathana Ken is about to leave her farming village in the eastern part of Cambodia to travel to Lund, Sweden to study in the Master’s Programme in International Human Rights Law.

Rathana has received a scholarship from the Camodian programme of the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law.

During the next two years, we plan to check in on her every now and again to see how she is progressing in her studies in the master’s programme. We asked her a few questions before she left the village of Tror Pang Run.

Can you describe where you come from?

I come from Tror Pang Run Village, Tany Commune, Angkor Chey District and Kampot Province. The village is located in the eastern part of Kampot Provincial Town and there are about 100 families who have settled there since the fall of Pol Pot Regime. All villagers are farmers who depend on growing rice and seasonal crops such as corn, bean, watermelon and other agriculture crops to support their living.

Because of low income and having to fight to survive, most of the young children have to quit school and find better job, for instance, in factories or construction areas in the capital city. And some of them immigrate to find jobs in other countries like Thailand and South Korea.

Camodian student  comes to Lund on a human rights scholarship.Why was it important for you to study law?

When I was young, I used to dream about helping people who encounter problems. But I did not know how I could help. When I grew up, I found that all people need to be protected and helped through legal protection if they are treated unequally.

We live in one society so we need instruments to govern for safety and security. One more thing is that Cambodia is a developing country and everything is under reform, so it is very crucial to have better legal instruments for the sake of citizens. To have better legal instruments is still not enough so it’s important to learn about the implementing of the law effectively and efficiently. Because the law is very important for Cambodia, I have to learn and do more research in order to find the way in guiding Cambodia to be a developed country not only in the economic sector but also legal sector.

What are your thoughts as you pack your bags, say goodbye to your friends, and head to Sweden?

While I was packing my bags and saying goodbye to my friends, I felt really excited because I have never expected that I would have this opportunity. I never thought that this would be possible in my life since I have struggled through so many obstacles to catch up to this achievement. I never thought I’d be able to explore and see the world and learn how to live very far from family, friends and relatives. I’m also nervous about the new settlement because I am afraid that I cannot adopt to the new environment. But I strongly hope that I can fight with this because of my dream in gaining new knowledge and experience.

What do you expect to see and learn in Lund?

Before I applied this scholarship, I have learned from my friends that Lund is the place where students should go and study there because it provides the best educational system in the world. I have been told a lot about it – that’s why I am really interested in building my capacity there. Sweden is a developed country in Europe, so I would like to see the daily lives of citizens, including their culture. I would like to learn about the legal practice so that I can learn and bring those experiences for the sake of Cambodia after I’ve graduated.

What do your family and friends say about the journey you are about to take and the career path you’ve chosen?

My family and friends were very proud of me after I told them about my journey. They also say that I am a successful woman among all girls in my village because there is only me who can pursue the highest education while others skipped school and get married at young age. Most of my friends including my villagers believe that I surely can help people after I’ve graduated from this valuable journey. In addition, after my villagers see that I can get such a high education, they start to believe that education is very important for their children so they have instructed their children to study just as hard as me.

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