Bar President Backs Would Be Arbitrators

Two days after 54 candidates for the National Arbitrations Center boycotted exams designed to test their knowledge, the president of the Cambodian Bar Association yesterday voiced support for the potential arbitrators’ position.

The Ministry of Commerce had scheduled exams for the arbitrators on Saturday and Sunday and a ministry official last week threatened to exclude arbitrators from application process if they went ahead with their protest.

The arbitration center is planned as a means of commercial dispute resolution outside the court system. No launch date has been scheduled.

Yesterday, Chiv Songhak, president of the bar, said candidates had been placed in a difficult position. After the arbitrators were chosen in April those who are not attorneys resigned their positions in government and the private sector as required. But in June, Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh announced the decision to require the exam for arbitrators, and Mr Songhak said now many worry about being jobless if their scores are low.

“They have been selected and have already been forced to resign from their jobs,” he said, adding that many will not be able to return to their jobs.

“Their boycotting of the exam is not wrong because there is no legal requirement,” said Mr Songhak, who was a member of the panel that chose the would-be arbitrators.

Mr Songhak said he would schedule a meeting with the 27-member of the bar council, the bar’s governing body, to discuss legal rights of the would-be arbitrators.

Mao Thora, secretary of state for the Commerce Ministry, last week said the arbitrators could be barred from re-applying if they boycotted the test and that the ministry would amend the law to require the test for candidates.

Mr Thora yesterday declined to comment.

Businesses yesterday reacted with support for the test requirement.

Mong Reththy, president of the Mong Reththy Group, said the would-be arbitrators had already hurt their credibility with their protests.

“How can they solve the problems of other people when they cannot solve their problems from the beginning?” he said. “It is like a man trying to sell ringworm medicine to treat ringworm when he lives with ringworm.”

Van Sou Ieng, president of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said he supported the test requirement.

“We just feel that the arbitrators should be qualified,” he said. “It’s very simple.”

Stephen Higgins, CEO of ANZ Royal Bank, agreed.

“I think there has to be a level of confidence in the people doing the arbitration. And knowledge that they have taken an exam that determines their competence is very important,” he said.


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