The Cambodia Bar Association has barred four lawyers from practicing law for six months as punishment for not paying membership fees to the association, members of the body said on Thursday.
Incumbent bar association President Ky Tech signed the order last week preventing lawyers Chea Pheng, Pang Sothea, Sun Chandaravuth and Chhit Sarith from providing legal assistance to the public from Jan 1 to July 1, 2006. If the four fail to pay their membership fees during the disciplinary period, Ky Tech said, they will be thrown out of the association, which would effectively prevent them from working as lawyers.
“In case they fail to fulfill their obligations…more punishment will be laid, including the removal of their names from the list [of bar members],” Ky Tech wrote in the letter of suspension.
The lawyers called the decision illegal on Thursday, saying Ky Tech had made the decision without the approval of the bar council. They also said they had not paid their fees for 2005 because of the dispute between bar council presidential rivals Ky Tech and Suon Visal, which all but paralyzed the association last year.
“I never paid money to the bar for the whole year of the dispute. I would have been shameful to pay at that time. I was tired of it,” said Chea Peng, who is also a member of the bar council.
Chea Peng said he owed $200 in membership fees for 2005.
Pang Sothea, Sun Chandaravuth and Chhit Sarith said they owed a comparable amount of money, and that they had withheld payment until the rightful president had taken his seat at the bar.
Bar council members Chiv Songhak and Bou Savon said the president had unilaterally made the decision to suspend the four and noted that up to 90 percent of bar members were late in paying their fees.
“The barred lawyers can appeal against this decision,” Chiv Songhak added.