Almost five years after it was established, the National Commercial Arbitration Center (NCAC) on Monday met in Phnom Penh to adopt a code of ethics in a bid to attract more clients to its alternative dispute resolution services.
The arbitration center was created in 2010 to provide businesses an alternative to the country’s courts but has still not heard a single case. Ros Monin, its president, said Monday he hoped the code of ethics would change that.
“We passed the code of ethics today in the general assembly to attract the trust of clients, because a code of ethics makes arbitrators have transparency, independence and neutrality,” Mr. Monin said, explaining that the code was passed by 30 of the 37 NCAC members present.
Mr. Monin said the code of ethics specifies that arbitrators will be fired if found to have broken the code, which he said spotlights neutrality.
“Most importantly, the center’s arbitrators must be independent, not favoring any party in a case of conflict, and they must declare that they are independent,” NCAC vice president Seng Vuoch Hun said after the meeting.
“For example, if a member has a close relationship with a [arbitrator] or is a relative of a [arbitrator], his or her decision could be biased, which could lead to complaints…and damage their reputation and also that of the center.”
Other parts of the code of ethics stipulate that arbitrators cannot meet with one party in a dispute without the other being present, and that arbitrators can only accept an appointment to a case they believe they can resolve.
Kim Pichda, the legal and labor affairs manager at the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC), said he thought GMAC factories might soon turn to the NCAC when deciding how to resolve disputes.
“Owners go to overseas commercial arbitrators like Singapore and Hong Kong, but I think that it will not be long until the [Cambodian arbitration] center will receive some cases, because it has announced that it is ready to receive and handle cases,” Mr. Pichda said.
Sandra D’Amico, vice president of the Cambodian Federation of Employers and Business Associations, also welcomed the code of ethics but said that developing a record of compliance would be important.
“[W]hat is most important is not only the establishment of a code of ethics, but the enforcement and adhering to the code of ethics,” Ms. D’Amico said in an email. “The NCAC has just been established so it will take time before people understand its services.”
“Most of our business disputes that are big land up in Singapore or Hong Kong arbitration, so a credible business dispute resolution in Cambodia is essential so that investors know there are credible mechanisms through which they can seek resolutions to business disputes,” she said.