PM lauds volunteer lawyers

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Prime Minister Hun Sen addresses volunteer lawyers at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh on Wednesday. SPM

Prime Minister Hun Sen reminded his volunteer lawyers to seek compromise when mediating disputes outside of the court system, urging them to find mutually beneficial solutions for all parties.

The advice was handed down at the Peace Palace on November 25 as Hun Sen reviewed the work of his team of volunteer lawyers, a group that had consulted on 2,550 cases from February last year to September this year.

“I would like to remind our volunteers to focus on some disputes that can be settled out of court with a win-win solution,” he said.

The prime minister established the team of volunteer lawyers in February 2019 with the aim of defending poor women who could not afford to hire lawyers. There are 138 volunteer performing their duties in Phnom Penh and all the provinces.

Hun Sen continued that in recent months his advisers and assistants were able to resolve many cases in out-of-court mediation, including disputes that had been unresolved for 10 to 20 years.

“It is really good if our lawyers try to solve problems outside the court system. If our lawyers work hard to tackle disputes this way, they can solve cases even if they are already in the hands of the courts,” he said.

While commending some non-governmental organisations for providing lawyers and legal consultations to local people, Hun Sen also expressed regret that some NGOs and lawyers had used these actions to provoke protests.

“It is not that the government does not know about this. We encourage the provision of legal support to the poor, but we do not encourage you [NGOs and lawyers] to incite protests ... I express both appreciation and disappointment,” he said.

Seung Senkarona, spokesman for local rights group Adhoc, said encouraging lawyers to handle disputes out of court was a positive development. But he said volunteer lawyers should not interfere in cases that had already reached the courts because this could affect the independence of the judiciary.

“Tackling disputes outside of the court system should be limited by the size and severity of the cases. Some cases, if we have to deal with them outside the court system, will influence the proper implementation of the law in Cambodia and may violate the power of the judiciary,” he said.

Ky Tech, Hun Sen’s chief of volunteer lawyer, presented the results achieved by the volunteer lawyers as of September. There were a total of 2,550 cases, including 74 cases of vulnerable women who were not able to hire lawyers to defend their legal rights in court.

Tech and the rest of the team made a commitment to Hun Sen: “Volunteer lawyers [must] perform all duties and responsibilities, use their knowledge and abilities to the best of their ability, demand equal rights under the law, and take part with the government in activities to enhance justice.”