A new space set up by law, governance and development NGO Destination Justice is providing the Kingdom’s young intellectuals with a place to study and hang out.
The NGO’s president, Rodolphe Prom, said the idea of the Justice Cafe and Library, which opened earlier this month in the capital’s industrial Meanchey district, was to “give knowledge to young people so they can open up their minds”.
“It’s something I can see a lot of back home in France – this ambiance of a small cafe where you don’t have 10 people staring at you waiting to pick up your empty glass,” Prom said.
Staffed mostly by the NGO’s Western workers, who take orders for simple snacks and drinks, the library has a collection of 259 donated books aimed to cultivate inspiration in visitors, who are primarily Cambodian youth.
The eclectic collection includes all kinds of material, from Khmer Rouge tribunal and NGO reports, to a Khmer translation of Thomas Keneally’s biography of Abraham Lincoln and Game of Thrones.
“[The books] can contain any idea that can change the world,” Prom said, adding that many of the donated materials came from his wife’s collection of books from graduate school.
Others were donated by NGOs, while some found their way to the library through individual donors.
Organisations and groups can also use the space to host small events and meetings.
“It’s very chilled because you can have conversations around the table,” Prom, said adding that the cafe had recently been visited by legal consultants to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.
“They were very humble and nice, talking to young people and chatting, opening their hearts. I think that’s a different setup from all those big rooms where you usually have workshops,” he said.
Not all events are serious, however. Today, for instance, the space will be used for a Mario Kart tournament on the library’s Nintendo Wii.
The overarching idea, explained Prom, was to create a small but tight-knit community of like-minded citizens unafraid to discuss and debate important ideas.
The purpose of the venue, he said, was to act as a “catalyst” for such a group to form.
“There’s already a demand, and we’re just responding to that demand,” he said.