The Ministry of Justice Thursday signed an order officially transferring 30 Phnom Penh Municipal Court clerks over to the ministry in a move officials claim will streamline the court system and cut down on corruption.
Officials Wednesday said it was only the first step in an overhaul of Cambodia’s courts system, which has been roundly criticized as being corrupt and bloated with nepotism. The 30 clerks will work for the Ministry of Justice in Phnom Penh, and then will be transferred out into the provincial courtrooms as jobs open up, Ministry of Justice Secretary of State Suy Nou said.
“Nowadays, the Municipal Court clerks are over-abundant, so our principle need is to transfer them to other places,” Suy Nou said.
Most of the clerks scheduled for transfer have had disciplinary problems, have made mistakes, or have shown “irregularities” in their work, Suy Nou said.
In his latest visit to Cambodia last month, Peter Leuprecht, the UN’s top human rights monitor for Cambodia, condemned Cambodia’s judiciary for being inept, corrupt and far from independent.
Others within the government have echoed those concerns, saying judges often appoint their sons or other relatives as clerks, giving their cases higher priority.
Moving troublesome clerks to the Ministry of Justice will allow the government to supervise them more closely, and also reduce the opportunities and chances for clerks to take bribes or peddle influence, a ministry official has said.
Currently, there are 10 judges working in two courtrooms at Municipal Court, with approximately 200 clerks rounding out the staff.
Minister of Justice Neav Sithong, who was appointed earlier this year, had promised to clean house at the oft-criticized ministry.
The 30 clerks, all of whom are scheduled to be transferred next week, have not even been notified of the move, Suy Nou said, and the directive has created “chaos” amongst clerks fearful of being on the list.