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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Charges filed in Bar dispute

Charges filed in Bar dispute

The two lawyers at the center of an escalating dispute over the presidency of the

Cambodian Bar Association (CBA) met on July 13, but are remaining tight-lipped about

moves to resolve the spat.

Former president Ky Tech met with newly elected head Suon Visal Wednesday evening

and planned to meet again next week, a confirmed a member of the CBA on condition

of anonymity.

The source refused to divulge any further details of the meeting, and neither Visal

nor Tech would comment on their discussions.

The long-running dispute took another turn on June 27, when Tech and his supporters

filed a complaint with the Phnom Penh municipal court accusing Visal and his colleagues

of forgery over the use of the CBA's official stamp and bar letterhead.

Visal allegedly had a new stamp made after a June 2 decision at the Supreme Court

to overturn an Appeal Court ruling that Tech retain the presidency for three months

while a presidential re-vote was organized.

Tech claims Visal breached CBA bylaws during the October 2004 election.

"The bar stamp is recognized by the Ministry of Interior and no one can use

it beside the current president," Tech told the Post on July 11.

"All the bar meetings that were organized by Visal are illegal, so the decision

of any meeting cannot be implemented or accepted as legal decisions," Tech said.

Suon Visal, however, was elected president of the CBA and reportedly has the support

of 12 of the bar council's 19 members.

"The complaint against me is not based on the law, and what I have done was

supported by the majority of bar council members," Visal told the Post on July

13, saying he had visited the municipal court to check the validity of the charges.

"I will try to meet him to solve the problem, but now I'm sick and receiving

treatment in the hospital," Visal said.

On July 4, 12 CBA council members wrote a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen asking

for intervention. On July 6 they made a similar appeal to the Minister of Justice.

International donors are considering withdrawing their financial support of the CBA

because of the infighting, which has hobbled the association.

Emi Aizawa, officer at the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), said

JICA and the Japanese Federation of Bar Associations were not planning on renewing

their three-year, $1 million project with the CBA when it expires in August.

"We feel that the current situation of the bar council is very serious and hope

that the internal conflict will be resolved soon," Aizawa said on July 13.

Aizawa said they are considering direct support to the Lawyer's Training Center,

a branch of the CBA.

Keo Sokea, assistance project officer of child rights legal protection at UNICEF,

said the organization will also rethink their funding for a 2006 technical-assistance

project to help vulnerable children.

The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC), a coalition of 18 NGOs, issued

a statement on July 5 that expressed strong disappointment at the decision of the

prosecutor to condemn Visal and his colleagues.

"The prosecutor of Phnom Penh municipal court has taken an administrative case

relating to the internal affairs of [the] Bar and turned it in to a criminal case,"

the statement said.



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