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Bar council backs elected leader

A majority of the council members of the Cambodian Bar Association (CBA) have backed

recently elected president Suon Visal, saying they will refuse to recognize any actions

taken by outgoing leader Ky Tech.

Eleven of the 19 council members issued a public statement on November 30, standing

firm against Ky Tech's claims that Visal broke campaigning rules during the October

election.

The conflict has divided Cambodian lawyers and drawn criticism over the political

nature of the supposedly neutral association, after Tech accepted several top-ranking

officials from the Cambodian People's Party into the CBA just weeks before the election.

Visal, a lawyer with the not-for-profit Cambodian Defenders Project, told the Post

he had experienced harassment at work from the former president Ky Tech and his supporters,

since a closed-door Court of Appeal session on November 19 that nullified the election

result and gave Tech an interim three months presidency.

"The Appeal Court judgment is completely wrong... they broke the law one hundred

percent," said Visal.

Visal said he had filed a complaint with the Supreme Court, but had not yet received

any official announcement of the Appeal Court decision.

NGOs and civil society have expressed their concerns over the presidential fracas.

Naly Pilorge, director of human rights organization LICADHO, said the Court of Appeal

hearing could and should have been held in public. The fact that it was a closed

hearing would inevitably raise suspicions about the reasons for the court's decisions

and may affect public confidence in the courts, said Pilorge.

"We hope the Supreme Court can hear the case urgently, so the conflict can be

resolved and the Bar Association can continue its work," she said.

Ham Sunrith, acting monitoring coordinator of LICADHO, said the CBA must be strictly

politically neutral and motivated only to provide quality legal services, particularly

to the poor.

The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, a coalition of 17 local NGOs, issued

a statement condemning the process of the trial and said the decision made by the

Court of Appeal was unjustified and without proper basis.

"The court of Appeal action jeopardizes the process of justice in Cambodia as

a whole and will cause people to mistrust the court system," the statement read.

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