Bar Association Rivals Want Open Hearing

The two lawyers vying for presidency of the Cambodian Bar As­so­­­ciation say they want Thurs­day’s scheduled Supreme Court hearing into the matter to be open to the public.

“I will not request a private hearing,” said incumbent Ky Tech, who was awarded the presidency in a closed-door Appeals Court hearing in November. “I want the public to see that I do not try to hide anything like before,” he said Monday.

Thursday’s hearing is expected to settle once and for all who is the le­gitimate president of the fractured lawyer’s association. Their le­­gal battle erupted last year when legal aid lawyer Suon Visal won a runoff election on Oct 16.

Ky Tech challenged the election, and in a Nov 19 hearing, the Ap­­peals Court handed the presidency back to Ky Tech without ex­planation.

Suon Visal appealed the decision shortly afterward.

Ky Tech said the decision to hold the Appeals Court hearing on camera had called into question the legitimacy of the court’s decision and did not settle the matter the way he wanted. Since the Ap­peals Court hearing, the 19-member Bar Council, which governs the association, has been all but par­alyzed because the two sides re­fuse to communicate.

Ky Tech added that if he loses Thursday, he will not oppose the re­sult but will hand the presidency back to Suon Visal.

In a statement Monday, Suon Vi­sal invited the international community and NGOs to monitor the case.

“By the law, the hearing should be conducted in public,” he wrote.

Supreme Court Judge Kong Phir­­un, one of five judges who will hear the case, said Supreme Court President Dith Monty will head the trial and any decision to move the session behind closed doors will come from him.

However, Kong Phirun said: “The Supreme Court has never had a secret case.”

A legal adviser with the East-West Management Institute, which has been working to develop the Bar’s legal aid program, said that if the hearing is done in se­cret, future projects could be jeo­par­dized.

“If they close the court, it will cer­tainly raise questions about the decision’s legitimacy,” adviser Mat­­thew Rendall said Monday, ad­ding that many projects have al­rea­dy been put on hold because of the circumstances surrounding the dispute.


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