Oddar Meanchey Court Ready, But Judges Still Missing

Two years after the construction of a new courthouse in Oddar Meanchey province, the Justice Ministry is still struggling to find the staff to make it run, officials said.

Chan Mono, director-general of the Justice Ministry’s administration and finance department, said last week the province’s courthouse was completed in 2008 and that Prime Minister Hun Sen had signed an order this year approving the its creation. The only thing missing, he said last week, were people to run it.

“The Ministry of Justice is working very hard…to assign judges to work [there],” said Mr Mono, who did not know how much longer it would take.

But even if staff members arrive, the court will be of limited use without a prison to go with it, said Vath Paramin, the secretary-general for the provincial government.

“We have proposed for a court in Oddar Meanchey province, but we do not know when we will have it, and we also need a prison,” he said last week, noting that local police would have a hard time transporting prisoners to the nearest prison in Siem Reap city.

Contacted yesterday, Mr Paramin said the province was still waiting. He also noted that the province had set aside four hectares for a prison in the capital city of Samraong.

Cambodia’s prisons chief, however, said a court must come first.

“First they must have functional courts,” said Heng Hak, director general of the Interior Ministry’s general department of prisons.

Oddar Meanchey is currently within the jurisdiction of Siem Reap Provincial Court.

Sa Thlai, for example, chief of Oddar Meanchey’s community forestry network, was summoned to appear in Siem Reap along with 10 fellow forest monitors on three occasions after they accused an RCAF commander and soldiers of assaulting them on March 4.

He said they could not have made the trips had a group of NGOs not agreed to cover their expenses. The bill for all three trips came to about $2,000.

“I think if there is a court here we would be happy,” he said yesterday. “On our own we could not afford to go to Siem Reap.”

“Some villagers are too poor to afford the travel expenses,” said Srey Naren, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc. “If there is a court in Oddar Meanchey, the cases will proceed faster.”


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