In a move toward judicial administrative reform, the Ministry of Justice is planning to transfer 40 Phnom Penh municipal court clerks to the ministry in a move designed to cut down on corruption and streamline the judicial process.
There are approximately 200 court clerks currently working at the municipal court, which is “too many,” said Suy Nou, secretary of state for the Ministry of Justice. He said the ministry has not set an exact date for when the clerks will be transferred.
Corruption and nepotism within the courts is a major reason the Ministry of Justice is planning the transfer, said a ministry official who declined to be named. The official said some clerks have a reputation for being corrupt, and by moving them to the ministry the clerks will not have access to bribes.
In some cases, the clerks work under the supervision of their fathers, who are judges, the official said. This also leads to corruption because the judges will give these cases higher priority or rule in their favor, the official said.
The Ministry of Justice will move only the court clerks whose work has shown “irregularities,” who have worked for many years in the municipal courts, or have made “mistakes in judgment,” said a court clerk who asked not to be identified.
“Now all of the court clerks in municipal court are in chaos and worry about their working situation because we just heard this information from the ministry,” the court clerk said.
Although Sok Sam Oeun, executive director for the Cambodia Defenders Project, had no details of the ministry’s plan, he praised it as a good step toward decreasing corruption in the courts. But he said the municipal courts had to go further and also increase the number of judges and courtrooms. He said there are only 10 judges and two working courtrooms.
Minister of Justice Neav Sithong could not be reached for comment on Monday.