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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - New district justice centers get good reviews

New district justice centers get good reviews

New district justice centers get good reviews

As land cases jam the Kingdom's courts, officials in Kampong Speu and Kampong Chhnang

say an experimental project called the Center for Justice is helping resolve disputes

in parts of their provinces.

The Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Interior launched the Center for Justice

pilot project on July 26, funded for three years by the United Nations Development

Programme. The center is operating only in the Phnom Sruoch and Korng Pisey districts

of Kampong Speu and the Kampong Leng and Teuk Phos districts of Kampong Chhnang.

The idea is to "strengthen dispute resolution at the commune level," said

Men Kimseng, communication analyst at UNDP. "We plan to extend to 20 districts

in early next year."

The Center for Justice aims to resolve civil disputes over debts, contracts, land

borders, property disputes over rights to housing and farm land, and other minor

offenses such as slander, cursing and violence without injury, said Kimseng.

He said the center provides basic legal knowledge. Five communes in each district

were selected for the alternative dispute resolution initiative where elected conciliators

hear and mediate disputes.

In the first month of the project in Phnom Sruoch about 20 civil cases were mediated

and the disputing parties accepted most of the agreements, said Deputy Governor Han

Piseth.

"The Center for Justice is not only resolving disputes for the people, but also

provides the people with legal assistance," said Piseth. "Most of the people

still do not understand about legal procedure. We solve the problems for them free

of charge." He said most of the problems are land disputes, caused because the

land market is volatile and people have migrated there from other places. Some title

cases were transferred to district land offices, he said.

Mean Eanly, governor of Kampong Leng district, said the initiative is helpful because

now people with disputes do not need to come to the district office to file a complaint,

which takes time and money. "The project just started, but I see it is effective,"

Eanly said. He said the governor's office explained the role of the new center to

all the village and commune level leaders.

In Kampong Speu, Deputy Governor Sok Born, said that "equipping commune councils

with knowledge of the law and conflict resolution skills is a good approach because

they are the groups that people trust." They were elected by the people so people

will go to them when they have problems," he said.

"I think it is good because we do not have enough judges and prosecutors to

work on all the cases," said a Kampong Speu court official who asked not to

be identified.

One human rights worker in Kampong Speu agreed that the project does reduce the court's

work and saves people money. But Son Khen, with human riyghts NGO Licado, said that

the scope of the project is small and it is not yet reaching people in remote areas.

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