Trainee Arbitrators Say No To Passing Muster

Candidates training to become commercial arbitrators in Cambodia’s planned National Arbitration Center have petitioned against a Commerce Ministry order requiring that they pass an examination, members of the arbitration council said yesterday.

They said the requirement was not stipulated in the arbitration law and was an excessive hurdle in the qualification process.

“We are not scared of failing the exam,” said Phan Panha, one of five prospective arbitrators representing a total of 54 candidates that have been selected by the government. “But this decision is wrong in the spirit” of the law.

The decision to make candidates take an examination was announced June 15 by Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh during a launch ceremony for the arbitrators’ training. During that ceremony, Mr Prasidh said that producing quality arbitrators would be a priority to build an institution that can solve business disputes quickly and professionally outside the court system.

According to documents obtained Wednesday, candidate arbitrators wrote a letter to Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh on Aug 11 asking him to explain the legal grounds for his decision to introduce a mandatory examination.

“The profession of commercial arbitration is a new skill in Cambodia, and the first arbitrators need enough time and opportunity to practice their profession,” they wrote, according to a copy of the letter.

Sou Chantha, former deputy chief of personnel at the Transportation Ministry, said he had resigned from his government job shortly after being selected as a candidate to work at the NAC on April 20.

“We have notified the minister to explain to us about his position of requiring us to pass an exam,” he said. “If he refuses to respond, we will boycott the examination.”

Julia Brickell, resident representative of the International Finance Corporation in Cambodia, which is supporting the NAC’s establishment, said passing an examination after training is complete would help build public confidence in the arbitrators.

“IFC fully agrees with the minister on the importance of high-quality arbitrators to ensure the credibility of the NAC. If the business community lacks confidence in the NAC, it will ultimately not use its services,” Ms Brickell wrote in an e-mail yesterday.

Once candidates have been registered with the NAC, its General Assembly will elect the executive board and the center will begin operations, she added.

Mao Thora, secretary of state at the Commerce Ministry, said the untested nature of an arbitration center was the reason it was necessary to offer assurances of the skills that arbitrators.

“The minister wished to have them pass an exam as a way to prove their quality,” he said.

Mr Thora said the government would amend a sub-decree that regulates the NAC in order to stipulate the necessity of taking an examination before having the right to work as an arbitrator.


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