Nearly four years after it was established by the Commerce Ministry and one year on from its official launch, the National Commercial Arbitration Center (NCAC) held its first annual assembly Friday.
The NCAC was set up in 2010 to provide businesses with an alternative to the courts system to resolve commercial disputes, but to date has not heard a single case.
Ros Monin, president of the NCAC, told those in attendance at Friday’s event that it was being held to adopt an annual budget for the organization and to agree on rules and procedures.
“The center was launched more than one year ago, but lacks rules to manage proceeding of cases,” he said.
“That’s why we have not received any cases, but after we adopt these rules, we hope that we will accept cases.”
The NCAC presented documents outlining financial and procedural rules on Friday but did not make public the agreed budget.
Although it is to operate as an independent organization, the NCAC will initially work from offices provided by the Ministry of Commerce.
Mao Thora, secretary of state for the Ministry of Commerce, stressed the need for independence in commercial disputes.
“If the arbitrator is biased or takes a side, the arbitrator would lose business,” he said.
“Next time when disputes happen, people would not use him or her. Thus, he or she cannot be corrupt.”
The organization currently has 52 members, including 42 arbitrators and 10 business associations.
Amongst the business community, there is a sense of optimism about what the NCAC could achieve.
Alex Larkin, a senior lawyer at DFDL and a representative of the European Chamber of Commerce in Cambodia, said a functioning commercial arbitration center in Cambodia was “very significant.”
“We see a lot of disputes,” he said. “I hear very often that foreign investors are concerned about efficiency of resolving disputes.”
Sandra D’Amico, vice president of the Cambodian Federation of Employers and Business Associations, said there was “no question” in her mind that the NCAC would help to encourage foreign investment.
“We have total confidence in the center and in the arbitrators who have been selected,” she said.
Douglas Clayton, the CEO of Leopard Capital, a private equity firm operating in Cambodia, said he was not concerned about the length of time it had taken to get the NCAC up and running.
“As long as they get it done right, I would rather it takes longer and is successful,” he said. “It’s better that they take their time and do it well.”
Billie Jean Slott, a representative of the American Chamber of Commerce, cautioned that the NCAC would require proper funding to function effectively.
“If we see it running well, people will use it,” she said. “I think it [is] an advisable institution, but it needs funding.”