The Commerce Ministry has finalized a 40-article draft law creating an independent commercial court and arbitration body, a ministry official said.
Commerce Ministry Undersecretary of State Mao Thora said last week that it is hoped that the specialized court for business disputes will be formed by 2009.
Many are hoping a commercial court would improve Cambodia’s capacity to fairly judge disputes in the business sector, and thus move the country further on the road toward a sound market economy.
In a country where the justice system is notoriously weak, Mao Thora said the specialized commercial court is needed to ensure investor confidence. “[Investors] do not want to field complaints about business in the civil court. They need a specific court,” he said, adding that the new court could reduce the number of cases clogging provincial courts, impacting the entire justice system.
Tech Nguon, Cambodia Chamber of Commerce director-general, said foreign trainers are being sought to begin working with 30 local lawyers and judges to develop the expertise necessary to serve in the commercial court as well as the arbitration body—which would hopefully mediate disputes before they reach the court.
“Lawless people can’t become arbitrators. They must be well-trained lawyers,” he said.
British American Tobacco Chairman Kong Triv said he has sought legal recourse in the past for trademark infringement, but that the court didn’t have sufficient expertise to handle the case.
He said that judges specially trained to officiate over business disputes will be more likely to offer quality decisions than judges who see business cases only intermittently as is currently the case.
The commercial court will function independently from the general judiciary. Therefore, it would have no direct impact on reform at the criminal and civil courts, but Chea Vannath, former Center for Social Development president, said she thought the judicial system still stands to benefit.
A commercial court that functions transparently and in accordance with best practices will serve as an example that will help raise the overall profile of the Cambodian justice system, she said.
“It may not have a direct impact on the justice system, but indirectly it could benefit,” she added.
(Additional reporting by Emily Lodish)
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