Lawyers on Sunday attacked a Friday Supreme Court decision that required the Cambodian Bar Association to reinstate lawyer Benson Samay as Cambodia’s official notary.
“The court’s decisions in the past have not indicated cooperation with the Bar Association to reform the judicial system,” Bar Association President Ky Tech said.
“Members of the Bar Association will be unlikely to credit any decision of the court from now on,” he added.
In December 2001 Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a subdecree appointing Benson Samay to the position of official notary, a legal position that had been vacant since before the Khmer Rouge regime.
The decree made Benson Samay the only person in Cambodia with the right to validate contracts and agreements dealing with property ownership and transfers.
In August, 2002, the Bar Association embarked on an ill-fated effort to expel Benson Samay from the practice of law, claiming conflicts of interest with his new job as notary.
The disbarment was overturned by the Appeals Court the following March, leading the Bar Association to lodge an appeal with the Supreme Court.
At the Supreme Court hearing on Tuesday, Ky Tech told the court that the post should not be filled because Cambodia has no law outlining the powers of the official notary.
Sok Sam Oeun of the Cambodian Defenders Project said on Sunday that the legal action against Benson Samay masked the bar’s real motivation.
“Other lawyers feel [having only one notary is] unjust, they feel that all lawyers should have this right,” he said. “Everybody thinks that [Prime Minister Hun Sen’s] subdecree is unlawful,” he added.
Sok Sam Oeun said that Ky Tech’s public challenge of the legal validity of the notary position also raised some political stakes.
“This looks like a political case,” said Sok Sam Oeun, “because if the court supported the Bar Association, it would look like the court is against the Prime Minister.” (Additional reporting by Nicholas Seeley)