When the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued its judgment on the Preah Vihear temple in the Hague on Monday, November 12 2013, four interpreters from the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) ensured that the details of the decision could be heard by Cambodians.
Three out of four interpreters: (From the left) Mr. Polida Kheng, Mr. Sopheaktra Chheav and Mr. Kompeak Phoeung.
Reacting to a request for assistance made by the Royal Government of Cambodia, the Court Management Section of the ECCC assigned interpreters, who voluntarily worked on a national holiday to interpret the International Court of Justice Decision on the Request for Interpretation of the Judgment of 15 June 1962 in the Case concerning the Temple of Preah Vihear (Cambodia v. Thailand).live on Cambodian television. The live broadcast was produced by Cambodian News Channel (CNC), and several other major Cambodian TV-stations relayed the live audio and video from CNC. The Khmer interpretation team was made up of 4 ECCC interpreters: two from French into Khmer, Mr. Sopheaktra Chheav and Mr. Kompheak Phoeung, and two from English into Khmer, Mr. Polida Kheng and Mr. Sopagna Seang. This was the first instance that simultaneous interpretation of an ICJ decision has been done in Cambodia through live television.
The interpreters were only given a few days to familiarize themselves with the highly complex legal case and cited their work at the ECCC as instrumental in preparing them for this task. “Thanks to the experience obtained on the course of our job at the ECCC and with the assistance, coaching and training conducted by international senior interpreters on interpretation-related themes, I am able to apply all these techniques on the day ICJ’s judgment on Preah Vihear case was read,” stated interpreter Polida Kheng.
His colleague, Mr. Sopheaktra Chheav further elaborates on the preparatory work the team completed before travelling to the CNC’s TV station: “We printed out all the documents to read at home, watched video clips on the ICJ website to be familiar with the pronunciation and accent of the ICJ President, Mr. Peter Tomka, and established a glossary of technical terminology,”
The ECCC’s role was also highlighted by Youk Chhang, the director of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, in an article submitted to the Cambodia daily dated November 13 in which he states that “the ECCC has provided critical training and experience to many Cambodians, and it is through this experience that the four translators were able to work with such skill and confidence”.
For their part, the translators expressed honour in being able to participate in the proceedings and the importance of disseminating such important information to their fellow Cambodians. “The positive effect of this cannot be underestimated given that Cambodian people have had limited access to information due partly to language barrier and lack of publicity,” stated interpreter Sopagna Seang. The interpretation of this decision ensured that the ICJ’s decision were more broadly accessible to Cambodians across the country