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
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.