Engaging Cambodia’s future judiciary

Wednesday, 14 July 2010 15:01 Sun Narin and Kounila Keo

Lift talked with some of the country’s current policymakers about how they are getting the next generation of lawyers, judges and politicians involved in the legal system, and asked the country’s rising legal players what they plan to address as they prepare to enter to the Kingdom’s courtrooms. Sun Narin and Kounila Keo

Chum Chinith
Masters degree student of law at the Royal University of Law and Economics (RULE).

Chum Chinith said he is concerned with traffic laws that are marred by irregularities in the enforcement and the amount of fines imposed for infractions.

“People’s awareness of the law is narrow since dissemination of the actual laws has not been prevalent in either the city or the countryside. The police nab and fine them in an informal way by negotiating the price, which can lead to a decrease in national budget and unfair actions by the police,” he said.

“Laws are meant to protect people’s interests but also maintain social order. I believe that lawmakers need citizens’ participation to refine proposed laws,” he said, adding that if they were given the opportunity, law students could provide positive contributions to these discussions.

Cheam Yeap
Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker

“Young people are the pillar of the country” said Cheam Yeap in an interview with Lift, explaining that eventually they will “replace their elder professionals”.

Although Cheam Yeap said the government has yet to create a platform for the general population to provide input on proposed laws in the Kingdom (see our article on iLaw on page 3), he said that they will consider ways to engage law students and experts with government institutions who are responsible for the creation of laws in Cambodia.

“Law students play an important role in lawmaking and law enforcement because they are knowledgeable and highly aware of laws,” he said.

“Qualified and capable graduate students are able to help make laws by working as clerks, judges, prosecutors and other legal work with government and non-governmental institutions.”

Kem Sokha
Human Rights Party president

Kem Sokha explained that lawmakers in a democratic country do not enact laws based on agreements among themselves; they depend on expert legal advisers throughout the drafting process and ultimately rely on the vote of the people.

“The government should survey the ideas of people when making laws,” Kem Sokha said. “For instance, in laws relating to the pharmaceutical sector they should consult pharmacists, and villagers should be consulted in laws regarding land along with prospective owners.

“In fully democratic countries, the government always holds a public forum for people to criticise the negative points of a draft law. In order to allow the law students have a chance to participate in the lawmaking process, there should be a public forum throughout Cambodia that permits students or non-governmental organisations to voice constructive comments on draft laws.”

Yun Potim
Lecturer of law at the Cambodian Mekong University (CMU)

According to Yun Potim, young lawyers will play a crucial role in helping the government improve the Kingdom’s judicial system.

“They have good knowledge of the lawmaking process,” he said. “So they have the unique ability to raise valid comments regarding lawmaking.

They not only know what law should be, they also understand what laws serve people of the country the best.” He said that graduates can make their impact on the county’s legal system by being diplomats, administrators, working within the country’s courts and ministries or by working in the private sector as legal assistants for non-governmental organisations or commercial companies.

Chhim Sam Ol
2008 law school graduate who is currently teaching

“Cambodia has plenty of laws that are good for the country,” said Chhim Sam Ol. “But what is more important is how the laws are implemented. Some laws lack perfect practice and are violated by powerful people.”

Regarding the recently passed corruption law, she asked, “why is the wealth of high-ranking officials not announced publicly and formally? Why is it kept in the envelope? This seems to suggest a concealment of the truth, which officials are afraid to reveal.”

Chhim Sam Ol would also like to see more engagement between the government and the country’s law students. “There should be a student association at law universities set up by the government so that the students can directly provide their constructive criticisms on laws.”

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