The National Arbitration Center’s (NAC) executive committee yesterday elected a president, vice president and treasurer, a vote that officials say makes the newly formed dispute resolution body independent of the government.
“From now on, the NAC will be functioning independently,” said Mao Tora, secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce, who presided over yesterday’s vote.
Mr. Tora said that funding will come from the Asian Development Bank and that the government would “not interfere in [the NAC’s] management or technical side, which is the NAC’s responsibility.”
The NAC’s seven-member executive committee—chosen earlier this month by the body’s 53-member general assembly—elected Ros Monin as president, Seng Vuochhun as vice president and Pa Ngounkea as treasurer.
Designed to allow businesses to resolve commercial disputes outside of the corruption-plagued court system, the NAC was established by the Commerce Ministry in 2010 and is meant to be cheaper and less time consuming than the ordinary judicial system.
While many of the NAC’s members, recruited over the past two years, are trained arbitrators, the body also includes representatives of the private sector.
Among its ranks are Kith Meng, CEO of the local conglomerate Royal Group; Van Sou Ieng, chairman of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia; Billie Slot, a lawyer at the legal consultancy Sciaroni & Associates; and Guillaume Massin, managing director for Cambodia at DFDL, a regional law firm.
“This is new work, and a new face for the ministry and the government, and it [the NAC] will help reform the court system in Cambodia,” said Mr. Monin, a trained lawyer and the NAC’s new president, adding that he expects the body to be ready to handle cases by late 2013 or early 2014, once it establishes internal rules and finds an office.
Mr. Monin stressed that the NAC would also be a corruption-free institution.
“When the NAC begins resolving disputes, the cases will only involve the two sides and the arbitrators, and the NAC will work quickly and transparently…so I don’t think there will be the intervention by powerful men,” he said.
“At least at the moment, we’ve had the best start possible,” said Guy Spooner, a member of the NAC’s executive committee and a partner at the U.K.-based law firm Norton Rose.
“And if it can continue like that, hopefully it will be perceived as being independent and not corrupt,” Mr. Spooner said.
But Sok Sam Oeun, head of the legal aid group Cambodian Defenders Project, said that unless the NAC can prove impartiality, foreign investors’ confidence in Cambodia would fail to increase.
“I think in order to encourage more foreign investors…the government must allow them to be independent,” he said, adding that the NAC should seek to emulate the Arbitration Council, which was established in 2003 to handle labor disputes in the country.