The Cambodian Bar Association has suspended attorney David Chaniawa’s license to practice law in Cambodia for 18 months, saying he broke confidentiality agreements with clients, refused to comply with orders from the association, and solicited for clients in local newspapers—all violations under the National Assembly’s law on the bar.
The association issued the decision to suspend Chaniawa, a Cambodian-American, on Friday, bar association Secretary-General Bun Honn said. The suspension went into effect on Monday, he added.
“We have had a lot of problems with David Chaniawa going back to when he was conducting his internship with the bar association in 1999,” Bun Honn said Wednesday.
Bunn Honn accused Chaniawa of breaching confidentiality agreements with his clients several times, which is a violation of Article 58 of the National Assembly’s Law on the Bar. The most recent example came when Chaniawa, representing six logging companies in a dispute over government concessions, spoke out against the government’s moratorium on logging, Bunn Honn said.
Chaniawa also refused to change the logo for his firm despite an order from the president of the bar association, Bunn Honn said. The logo shows the scales of justice unbalanced.
Chaniawa on Wednesday disputed the allegations against him.
“I never violated the law,” he said.
Chaniawa, who has been practicing in Cambodia since 1999, claimed he worked on at least 30 percent of the commercial legal cases in Cambodia while also representing high-profile clients such as logging companies and garment factories. This has caused the bar association “to feel threatened,” he said.
He also denied rumors that he has no law degree. On Wednesday, he produced a diploma from the University of Southern California Law School at Los Angeles for a law degree awarded in 1999. He also provided an official letter from David Hoffman, registrar for the school, stating that Chaniawa attended the university.
Another lawyer will take over as head of the firm and will handle all cases, Chaniawa said. He has appealed the decision with the Appeals Court, he added.