With the election for a new president of the Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia fast approaching, candidates are eager to make their platforms known.
At 8 am on Oct 16, more than 500 lawyers will meet at the Cambodiana Hotel to elect the next bar association president, incumbent president Ky Tech said Wednesday.
Ky Tech said that there are six candidates who have submitted applications to run, though Suon Visal—who beat Ky Tech in the 2004 election, but was controversially not awarded the presidency— said that he has pulled out of the race in order to focus on his law firm.
Ky Tech himself will have completed two consecutive two-year terms and is therefore barred from running again. And he said Wednesday that it’s just as well.
“At the bar association, I am tired. I use a lot of brainpower, and it has always been difficult,” he said, adding that he isn’t sure yet how he will make use of his upcoming free time.
“I will probably take a break for one year,” he said.
Ky Tech said he could not pinpoint any specific obstacles over the course of his term, but that it has been continuously trying.
“Leading the bar association, I cannot talk about it being a happy time,” he said. “The leadership wasn’t easy. The leadership cannot be careless…. We must think about issues relating to the promotion of lawyers’ values,” he added.
Ky Tech said that the remaining five candidates—Puth Theavy, Chiv Songhak, Nou Tepirith, Uk Phourik and Khiev Sophal—have until 48 hours before the election date to conduct their campaigns.
Attorney Puth Theavy said Wednesday that a change in leadership is necessary at the bar, and that, if elected, he would run the association independently.
“My stance is to lead the bar association in an independent way, professionally, free and with dignity,” he said, adding that his efforts would not take away from cooperating with local institutions.
“I don’t want the bar association to be interfered with by some politicians in the government,” he said, though he declined to name any specific politicians that he had in mind.
Puth Theavy also said he would work to fight discrimination among lawyers.
Lawyer Chiv Songhak said that he would make court reform a priority and that he would like to see more transparency in how students are selected to be trained as lawyers.
He said he would also defend lawyers who are unfairly targeted for expressing their opinions while defending clients.
“I am against the charges on lawyers who express their opinions,” he said.
Lawyer Nou Tepirith said he would focus on bringing lawyer training up to international standards.
“It will be able to prevent the stealing of services by foreign lawyers,” he said. “It has to be that we can make [a profit] like them.”
Nou Tepirith said he would also extend legal services to the poor.
“It is for all human beings to receive equal rights before the law,” he said. “The poor and people in remote areas are losing this right.”
Attorney Uk Phourik said that he was suspending his position as president of the Khmer Democratic Party in order to run for bar association president.
If elected, he said he would recruit more college graduates with degrees in economics, business and finance to train as lawyers.
“These are skills the court needs,” he said.
“[The law degree holders] only know about criminal issues…. They don’t know how to calculate and what bankruptcy is,” he said, adding that he would also work to double the number of lawyers who are trained each year.
Repeated calls to Khiev Sophal were not answered Wednesday.