Mengchhun Kheang is one of 12 recent recipients of an RWI scholarship given to Cambodians to obtain their Master’s in International Human Rights Law in Cambodia in a programme RWI has supported the Paññāsāstra University of Cambodia (PUC) to develop. It is the only master’s programme in human rights offered in Cambodia.
Kheang currently holds a position as a government officer at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the International Cooperation Department where he works with agencies such as the EU, IMF, and World Bank. A unique aspect of the master’s programme is that classes are held during the weekend to allow students like Kheang to continue working. The other recipients come from a wide range of backgrounds with jobs in the public sector, at various NGOs, in academia, and as monks.
Kheang demonstrates an intense commitment toward the work he does. His home Chbarmon City in the Kompong Speu Province is located 48 kilometers from Phnom Penh where he works. With traffic, he says his commute typically takes two hours each way. It is worth it, he says, because working for the Cambodian government provides him with a meaningful opportunity to serve his country.
Growing up in a middle-class family, Kheang enjoyed access to education and was afforded opportunities that many of his fellow Cambodians never received. He recognizes his privileges are not a reality for so many others in Cambodia, and this is what motivates him to want to work in human rights. He says:
Many Cambodians still cannot fully enjoy their rights even in Cambodia’s 21st century democracy. I am lucky to be born into my situation – I’m not rich, but I attended school, I can use the Internet, I understand English, I know my rights. We have to do something to make sure more people in Cambodia are able to enjoy their rights fully. It is not easy, but that does not mean it is impossible.
After completing his Bachelor’s in Law from Royal University of Law and Economics as one of the top students in his class, Kheang says he still had not learned about human rights law specifically. He realized that he wanted to study human rights as an integral part of working as a diplomat and discussing Cambodia’s own human rights issues with other countries as well as other country’s situations as well. After researching online, Kheang found the RWI scholarship and decided to apply.
He decided this programme will help him better serve his country and making human rights a reality for all Cambodians as a government officer. After completing the master’s programme, Kheang has also considered to continuing his study of human rights law by obtaining a PhD in the subject. He is ultimately grateful for RWI for providing Cambodians the opportunity to study human rights law, which he sees is a path forward creating important change in his country. He says:
I am grateful for the opportunity RWI provides for Cambodian students. I think giving scholarships to Cambodian students to study human rights is important because it builds human capital working on these issues in our home country, which is the best way to help the future of Cambodia.
RWI has held partnerships with a number of academic institutions in Cambodia since 2013 aiming to provide human rights education to the next generation of decision-makers. Read more about RWI’s work in Cambodia here.