Officials from Singapore will start training a group of 54 candidates this week to become commercial arbitrators in Cambodia’s planned National Arbitration Center, an alternative commercial dispute mechanism that is hoped will resolve business disputes quicker and less expensively than if they entered the court system, officials said yesterday.
Speaking at the launch ceremony yesterday for the training, which will take place from June 18 to 20 and again from July 3 to 4, Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh told candidates that the training and selection of successful arbitrators would be the first step toward building an effective and independent institution for solving business disputes in Cambodia.
“The real challenging issue is not the formation of the center. We must do whatever it takes to operate the center effectively, providing high quality and non-biased services of commercial arbitration with an acceptable fee,” Mr Prasidh said.
“The success of the center will rely on the confidence of the customer. This confidence will depend on the capacity and honesty of the arbitrator,” he added.
Charles Schneider, program manager of the International Finance Corporation’s advisory services in the Mekong region, who is supporting the NAC, said trainers from the Singapore Institute of Arbitrators, Singapore International Arbitration Center and Law Society of Singapore would train the prospective arbitrators.
“Singapore has a lot of experience in running arbitration centers,” he said.
Mr Schneider said that training would consist of programs in tribunal procedures, arbitration hearings, report writing and the administration of evidence, among other aspects, and will culminate in a final examination.
Among the 54 candidates, 51 are Cambodian nationals and three are from abroad. It is still unknown when the NAC will officially start operations.
The International Finance Corporation and the Asian Development Bank signed a memorandum of understanding on Aug 10 with the Ministry of Commerce to set up the NAC, which will also receive technical support from the European Union.
The NAC will have an executive board comprised of a chairman, a vice-chairman, a treasurer and a group of arbitrators. The executive board will appoint a secretary-general to oversee the day-to-day operations of the NAC. None of these positions have yet been selected.
Cases involving business disputes will exit the court system – if both parties agree – and enter the arbitration system. Such cases will then only move back into the legal system for the court to confirm judgment.
Julia Brickell, resident representative of the IFC in Cambodia, said in a speech that commercial arbitration would play a vital role in developing investor confidence in Cambodia’s economy.
“For many countries an alternative mechanism to the courts such as arbitration is a very effective way to reduce the risk of entering into business contracts because it provides a simplified mechanism for resolving disputed should they arise,” she said.