Pailin’s court looks set to be incorporated into the national judicial system next year, a move government officials and human rights experts hope will strengthen the rule of law in the former rebel stronghold.
“We will establish a legal court for Pailin and its people because we must not leave one part of our country with no law nor justice system,” Secretary of State for Justice Suy Nou said Tuesday.
Before the court can be established, however, a budget must be set and the court must be approved by the Supreme Council of Magistracy, one of Cambodia’s top judicial bodies, Suy Nou said. He did not know when the council would meet but said he hoped it would be soon.
The government will appeal to international donors for the $50,000 to $100,000 needed to construct a court building and prison, he added.
The former Khmer Rouge stronghold was integrated into the government in 1996 following the defection of longtime rebel deputy Ieng Sary.
But its court has never been recognized by the national judicial system. Authorities in 1997 gave implicit permission for the Pailin court to operate with limited powers.
The court follows Untac law and puts detainees in makeshift cells as there has been no money to build a prison.
The system’s inability to function effectively, however, was highlighted last year when two murder suspects were executed and the court declined to take action.
The senior court official said at the time that a one-day training course for the police on the rights of prisoners would be enough. Authorities and rights workers noted the incident was reminiscent of the “jungle law” practiced during the Khmer Rouge period.
Pailin Third Deputy Governor Keo Horn said Tuesday by telephone the town is eagerly awaiting a legitimate judicial system.
“We are thirsty for a court system and the rule of law in Pailin because if we have them here, it will be easier for us to solve problems,” he said.
As investment and business begins to roll into the border town, officials said, the court will play an important role in settling business disputes. Many disputes now are resolved through mediation by Pailin’s leaders, said Suy Nou.
Khmer Institute of Democracy Executive Director Lao Mong Hay also called the possible creation of a legal court a positive step.
His organization staged a training course for 35 court, police and municipal officials last week, which he said was successful. Pailin authorities requested three more training courses from the institute, he said.
“Pailin officials and residents are very interested in learning about laws,” Lao Mong Hay said.