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Lawyers Vote in Wake of Damning Report

Tin Sokhavuth / Khmer Times Share:

The Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia (BAKC) will hold its eighth election today at its headquarters in Sen Sok district.

The Association is reeling after a report last month from an international bar association slammed it as being beholden to the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and outright refusing to represent anyone associated with the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).

Bun Honn, BAKC’s president, told Khmer Times that 856 lawyers nationwide will participate in the election to choose 27 members of the BAKC’s Council.

“The election happens every three years. It’s an absolute majority election. There were 103 registered candidates, but one passed away and another resigned from the candidacy. So until now, we have only 101 candidates left,” said Mr. Honn. 

According to Mr. Honn, to be a candidate for the BAKC’s Council, lawyers must have at least two years’ experience, be a full time lawyer and be certified by the Association itself. 

“The election will be very fair and equitable. Transparency will play a crucial role, because the ballot box is in glass; everyone can see the ballots from the start to the end of the election,” added Mr. Honn.

“More than that, we will count the ballots publicly the same day, as soon as the election finishes. We will count the ballots manually, and also we will verify the result with our computerized system. Usually, the candidates for BAKC’s Council election have one month to do their election campaign, from September 15 to October 14,” he added.

‘Biased Institution’

A report from the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) published last month was full of damning criticism.

“BAKC operates in a highly politicized manner and is widely regarded as a biased institution, fundamentally loyal to the CPP… rather than to its members and the legal profession,” the report said.

It touches on the body’s elections as well, saying the CPP directly controls who can run for which positions.

“The BAKC does not offer a robust defense to anyone who is not a member of the CPP… often neglecting entirely to defend members of the CNRP,” the report said.

“Many expressed the view that the BAKC presently operates as a de facto part of the Cambodian government, rather than as an independent association established in order to protect the interests of Cambodian lawyers.”

In a statement, the Bar refuted the allegations and said it was an independent body that allowed anyone to run for its management positions. They slammed the accusations as the views of ‘tourists’. 

At the end of the report, the International Bar Association recommended that the BAKC have its membership to the association revoked.

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