Cambodia's bar association admonished the general prosecutor of the Appeal Court last week to ensure that authorities respect the role of lawyers after hearing that a police chief in Kampot town refused to acknowledge an attorney’s right to defend two men accused of theft.
According to a copy of the letter, dated August 20 and obtained by the Post yesterday, an attorney named Try Chhoun presented a letter to Kampot town police chief Ngem Vet stating that she was representing two clients – Lim Hour and Pin Rongdamrong – only to be denied recognition and told she could not defend the men until after they had been interrogated.
In the letter, bar association president Bun Hun argued that, under the law on the rights and role of lawyers, an “attorney can represent the client whenever the client agrees”, and that the defence of a client is not contingent on the permission of the authorities.
Vet, however, defended his decision yesterday, saying that because Chhoun presented the letter alone, he had no way of verifying that the two men had consented to be represented by her, and noted that Chhoun had little to defend against so far.
“How could she defend her clients when I have summonsed them two times already [and they didn’t come]?” he said.
Chhoun said yesterday that since the intervention she has been allowed to defend Hour and Rongdamrong, who have been officially charged with theft.
However, Hour said yesterday that neither had stolen anything from plaintiff Thun Vuthy, but had, in fact, taken back a table that Vuthy had borrowed when he was an opposition member, before defecting to ruling party.
“I met his wife and him, and we all agreed that I could transport [the table], because it’s the [opposition] party’s work table that the party kept at his house,” Hour said. “But now he’s with another political party, so his excellency Chea Poch, who is my boss, asked me to bring the table back.”
“At that time, Thun Vuthy took photos of me transporting the table, then I heard he was suing me for stealing his property,” he added.