In a bid to circumvent court logjams and improve accessibility, the ministry of justice plans to launch a pilot project establishing legal offices at the district level, Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana said.
“We want to create the offices to solve civil cases in four or five districts as the pilot project,” Ang Vong Vathana said Thursday.
Empowered to adjudicate minor civil cases without going to the court, the offices will save the government money and cut back on the backlog of more than 10,000 civil cases and 2,000 criminal cases that had accumulated in Cambodia’s court system by the end of last year, he said.
“They will know the law and will solve disputes outside the court because the court is quite busy,” he added.
Though Ang Vong Vathana was hopeful about getting the pilot project off the ground soon, a representative from the UN Development Program said it could take some time.
For the past year, the UNDP has been surveying different communities and levels of government to determine how disputes and conflicts could be resolved outside the court system.
From village chiefs up to provincial and national leaders, alternative and traditional ways to deal with conflicts have been used for years and each has its benefits and drawbacks, the representative said.
Traditional ways mean villagers don’t have to travel far or pay court costs.
But the drawbacks are that whoever is responsible for resolving the conflict could be influenced or biased and that rulings are not enforceable.
“It’s a very complicated situation,” the representative said.
The UNDP survey, which will be released in June, will outline what works and what doesn’t and provide a basis with which to work from, the representative added.