The Bar Association of Cambodia yesterday disciplined six lawyers for breaching professional ethics.
Bar Association president Suon Visal said the six lawyers were suspended from practising law for various amounts of time, noting the suspensions were made during the association’s annual meeting when problems the legal profession faces in the Kingdom were also discussed.
“The Bar Association disciplined six lawyers for breaching professional ethics after issuing warnings,” he said. “We just suspended them for a short time and did not disbar them because their offence was not serious.”
Mr Visal noted that the six were disciplined because they delayed defending clients even after accepting payment.
He also said there are more than 1,700 registered lawyers in the Kingdom, but only 1,000 were practising while the rest have opted to work as civil servants or taken up other jobs.
“So there are not enough lawyers to attend to the number of criminal and civil cases in the Kingdom,” Mr Visal noted.
On the provision of legal aid, he said that the government provides some funds for the association to send lawyers to help defend poor people and the budget increases annually.
“In 2019, the government provided 1,200 million riel [about $295,587] and the government will provide 1,600 million riel [about $394,116] in 2020 for poor people’s legal services,” Mr Visal said.
He said although the amount is high, it was still not adequate because the association has to send lawyers to handle between 5,000 to 6,000 cases involving poor people every year.
Sam Sokong, a lawyer, yesterday said that the association has the power to discipline those who breach professional ethics.
However, he complained that recently the association made a ruling requiring lawyers to wear three different colours of robes to denote seniority during functions it organises.
Mr Sokong noted that when they are in court all lawyers wear the same black robes despite being senior or junior.
“I think that the association should not have three types of lawyers’ robes because it is a form of discrimination,” he said. “In my view, the association should only recognise one type of robe because we all do the same work.”
Mr Sokong also bemoaned the fact that it is difficult for lawyers to provide proper legal aid to the poor because they are only given a short time to prepare for cases when judges send late requests to the association to provide the service.
“Judges should send requests early to the association to provide lawyers to defend the poor because we need time to study the case in more detail,” he noted.