The CPP chairman of the Senate’s legislation and justice commission on Tuesday offered a strong critique of the Cambodian courts prompted by a nationwide investigation his commission is conducting on the judicial system.
Senator Ouk Bunchhoeun said by telephone Tuesday that his commission is in the midst of an ongoing look into the functioning of the courts and legal knowledge of judicial officials, and has so far found them to be lacking.
“The judges and the prosecutors are facing difficulty in implementing the laws,” Ouk Bunchhoeun said.
“There are a lot of technical terms that judges and prosecutors don’t understand. There are a thousand pages [of legislation] and the law was just approved, [so] they are having difficulty in terms of interpreting the law,” he said.
The end result has been delays in bringing cases to trial, he said, adding that this problem has been exacerbated by a shortage of judges, prosecutors and clerks.
In addition, the limited number of judges currently within the court system have an inadequate knowledge base, Ouk Bunchhoeun said.
“The judges haven’t fully implemented the laws because the judges’ qualifications are limited, they need more training,” he said.
Beyond the problems with the ability of judicial personnel, the court system needs funding to address serious problems like inadequate courtroom facilities, a lack of administrative employees, and a lack of investigative equipment and capability.
“The judicial system must be reformed,” he said.
The investigation and the strong words from the senator are atypical of the upper house of Parliament, which has long been derided as an ineffectual rubber stamp.
Ouk Bunchhoeun said the Senate is taking a more active role because it was elected, unlike the first Senate, which he said was toothless, because it was appointed. The first senators were appointed in 1999, with this second round of lawmakers being elected indirectly by commune councilors in 2006.
He added that this was the time to investigate the capabilities of the judicial system because the courts have now had more than a year to implement the new Criminal Procedural Code and more than two years to put the Civil Procedural Code into effect.
Ouk Bunchhoeun said that his commission visited the Kandal court in July and the Kompong Speu court last week, and will be investigating the Prey Veng, Svay Rieng and Kompong Cham courts next month. Ultimately, the commission will review all of the country’s courts, he said, and a report will be produced to be submitted to the Senate permanent committee, the Justice Ministry and all other relevant ministries.
Kandal Provincial Court Judge Kor Vandy confirmed that the Senate commission led a 15-person delegation to speak with judges at his court, but refused to give further comment.
Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but Justice Ministry Secretary of State Hy Sophea said that judges are working hard and the problems in the judicial system are only limited to “minor mistakes.”
“We are working to reform,” he said.