A majority of the Cambodian Bar Association Council publicly threw their support behind elected bar president Suon Visal Monday, blocking the Appeals Court-ordered reinstatement of defeated incumbent Ky Tech.
In a statement signed by 11 of the 19 members of the Bar Council, the legal guild’s governing body, the lawyers wrote that they will recognize only legal aid lawyer Suon Visal as the bar’s president, despite a Nov 19 ruling by the Appeals Court overturning his Oct 16 electoral victory.
The statement noted several aspects of the Appeals Court’s closed-door decision that appeared to violate the law, including the reinstatement of Ky Tech despite an appeal pending before the Supreme Court.
Suon Visal said the statement was a vindication of his mandate.
“The bar can function based on a majority. Now I get [a] majority. I can operate it,” he said Monday.
Ky Tech was less pleased.
“This letter is stupid,” he said. “They do not know the law. Their voice does not represent the lawyers across the country.”
Though Suon Visal’s supporters maintain they are upholding the law in the face of an illegal ruling, their detractors claim the refusal to acknowledge the Appeals Court verdict is itself a legal violation.
“If they do this, it is illegal,” said Bun Honn, a council member who did not sign the petition. “I support [Ky Tech] because I have to respect the Appeals Court decision.”
Suon Visal supporter Nou Tepirith disputed that argument, saying that the move was necessary to preserve the bar’s independence from a partisan court.
A copy of the Appeals Court ruling obtained Monday annulled the Oct 16 results and orders Ky Tech to immediately resume the post. No legal reasoning is offered in the ruling, which was signed by presiding Judge Thou Mony.