Bar association monitoring ethics

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Suon Visal, the president of The Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia [BAKC]. Supplied

Cambodian lawyers on Wednesday were urged to adhere to their code of ethics at the 24th Convention of the Cambodian Bar Association in Phnom Penh.

Lawyers were also told they must continue to update themselves on new laws passed by the National Assembly as senior Ministry of Justice officials and the Judicial Institution convened to address issues and implement reforms.

Appeal Court prosecutor Uk Savuth said he took great pride in his work as a lawyer, but some people in the field failed to realise that they were valued and respected.

Savuth told The Post: “A judicial officer once took note of offences committed by an offender and his account was recorded in a manner to benefit the offender.

“He had changed the records to reflect the wrongdoer as the complete opposite.

“When [the innocent] become wrongdoers they are handed an unfair sentence, while wrongdoers walk free having escaped justice.

“If an investigation is relaunched, the judicial officer and his notes will not be of value any longer. These people are a scourge to the profession.”

All lawyers have to hold themselves to a higher standard, Savuth said.

Ministry of Justice secretary of state Chiv Songhak said that beyond monitoring lawyers’ professionalism, the ministry had already established the Court of Commerce and was in the process of drafting procedures for it.

The Court of Commerce will be managed by the Phnom Penh Municipal and Provincial Courts with a separate court chief, Songhak told The Post, adding that when the procedures are finalised, the ministry will train judges and prosecutors before they hear the first case.

He said: “Lawyers and judges have to study commercial law as it is very different and has a lot of different aspects to it, but I don’t know whether every lawyer will increase their capacity to better serve the public.

“The Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia [BAKC] held a series of workshops, but sometimes lawyers aren’t well-informed on draft commercial laws or new laws as they are passed by the National Assembly.”

BAKC president Suon Visal said the Association had worked hard since it was established in 2017 to resolve issues plaguing the profession, but some matters were still outstanding.

“These problems include the abuse of the code of conduct. The BAKC has made efforts to resolve them in cooperation with its Council.

“Certain problems arise from [members] who do not adhere to our ethics. That reflects poorly on the profession as a whole.

“We have formed a disciplinary council to investigate and discipline lawyers. In some cases, defence attorneys who brought a witness before the court ended up being charged with conspiring with the accused.

“This seriously affects the perception of lawyers. The BAKC has issued a letter to relevant institutions to ensure that lawyers behave professionally,” Visal said.