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Arbitration inching forward

Ros Monin, president of the National Commercial Arbitration Centre, in Phnom Penh last week.
Ros Monin, president of the National Commercial Arbitration Centre, in Phnom Penh last week. Hong Menea

Arbitration inching forward

The National Commercial Arbitration Centre (NCAC), an independent body that works to resolve commercial disputes, officially launched in 2013. While the centre has only received three cases to date, of which the first was dropped because the claims did not fit the institution’s criteria, there is hope more businesses will recognise the benefit of seeking arbitration for dispute resolution instead of costly and lengthy court proceedings. NCAC president Ros Monin sat down with The Post’s Hor Kimsay to discuss the centre’s recent activities and agreements.

We haven’t heard too much from NCAC. Can you tell us how things are going?
It’s going smoothly as we have dispute cases to be solved, even if not many yet. We currently have two commercial disputes on hand and we hope to resolve them soon.
One of the main issues is the lack of awareness among the business community on the benefits of commercial arbitration. We need to take time to educate them. As it’s a new system in Cambodia, there are many challenges, but we are making progress step by step.

Have these efforts to boost awareness made progress?
We’ve seen a lot of improvement. While we haven’t had many cases of commercial arbitration yet, we’ve observed that more and more businesses are inserting arbitration clauses into their business contracts. That means if they have a dispute both parties have agreed in advance to bring the case before the NCAC to be resolved. This shows they know the advantages of using arbitration, and are willing to have us resolve their disputes.

Do you worry about the sustainability of the NCAC?
I don’t worry at all because even if we cannot run fast, we are moving forward all the time. Until now, we’ve worked to strengthen the quality of our arbitrators and we now have highly qualified arbitrators. We’ve been working actively with the business community to boost awareness of the advantages of arbitration and it seems to be sinking in.

NCAC recently signed a cooperation agreement with the newly opened China-ASEAN Legal Cooperation Centre (CALCC). What was the purpose of this agreement?
We signed the partnership agreement on December 8 with the purpose of helping each other to strengthen expertise in commercial arbitration. The main purpose is to facilitate the activities of Chinese investors in Cambodia, and to solve commercial disputes involving Chinese companies in Cambodia.
As a result of this agreement, there are five arbitrators from China working alongside us to facilitate our work with Chinese companies in Cambodia. We expect this will attract more businesses – especially Chinese ones – to use our services, and we’ve been informed that some Chinese companies are now planning to file cases.

Why should special attention be given to Chinese businesses?
Cambodia’s economy is developing very fast and is attracting foreign direct investment from many countries, but especially from China. There are about 1,000 Chinese companies already operating in Cambodia. As the number of businesses and volume of trade grows, disputes are unavoidable. So we are here to solve these issues for them professionally and effectively.

So where were Chinese investors in Cambodia previously taking their dispute cases to be solved?
We do not have concrete information on this yet, but we’ve observed that some were bringing their cases to Cambodian courts, while others were seeking arbitration abroad in Hong Kong and Singapore, for example.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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