The government plans to spend $1.7 million over the next three years to build appellate courthouses across the country, according to the 2011 draft budget, part of an effort to improve access to the court system.
A budget appendix outlines a staggering $2.69 billion in development projects during the next three years, with just over 0.1 percent of that, or about $2.74 million, going to the Justice Ministry.
Of that Justice Ministry money, $1.7 million is to be used to construct new appeal courts across the country, while the remainder is to be allocated to improve existing court buildings. The source of the $2.69 billion is identified as foreign financial capital.
Prom Sidhra, secretary of state for the Ministry of Justice, said yesterday that the ministry planned to build more appeal courts to speed up court cases.
“It is just a project plan,” Mr Sidhra said. “We have had that plan for a long time now, because there are many appeal cases but we only have one court of appeal.”
Mr Sidhra said he knew no other details of building plans.
Chuon Sunleng, deputy president of the Court of Appeal, which is currently located within the Justice Ministry building in Phnom Penh, said he was unaware of plans to build more appeal courts but that this would aid the work of the courts.
“If we have more appeal courts, it will make it easier for villagers, who won’t need to travel so very long,” he said.
Bar Association President Chiv Songhak welcomed plans to build more appeal courts.
“I have heard about this plan,” Mr Songhak said. “To me, it will be good to have in certain regions, such as the southeast or southern regions, to cover multiple provinces so people do not have to come a long way to Phnom Penh.”
Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of legal aid NGO Cambodian Defenders Project, also welcomed the plans, but said more change was needed.
“It’s a huge step forward, but the problem of procedure and judges’ ethics still needs to be improved,” Mr Sam Oeun said.