Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Foreign lawyers put on notice

Foreign lawyers put on notice

Foreign lawyers put on notice

In the latest chapter of the Cambodian Bar Association’s crusade to clamp down on foreign lawyers practising in the Kingdom, a high-ranking court official has informed all city and provincial prosecutors to “eliminate the anarchy” stemming from non-native lawyers’ activities.

“To protect the professionalism of the bar association, we have to cooperate to respect the rule of law, especially the law on the legal profession, and work together to eliminate the anarchy from foreign lawyers who are practicing without registering in Cambodia,” a letter from prosecutor general of the Court of Appeal Ouk Savuth reads.

The letter, which was signed on April 2 and posted on the Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia’s website yesterday, does not specify how the action would be taken.

According to the Law on the Bar from 1995, foreign lawyers cannot represent clients in the Kingdom as long as their countries of origin do not reciprocate the arrangement, although they can work in commercial association with Cambodian lawyers.

The Bar Association has long quarrelled with foreign lawyers working in Cambodia, appealing to various government institutions to clamp down.

In a February 17 letter from the association sent to the Ministry of Economy and Finance, the body said 12 firms in Phnom Penh each had one to 10 foreign lawyers working for them, decrying their impact on the rule of law.

“A study from the inspection authority of the Bar Association shows the continuing [operation] of foreign lawyers in Cambodia can cause negative impacts on rules and regulations, politics, economy and social society,” the letter read.

In practice, many foreign firms operate as legal advisers or consultants, often working with foreign investors eying or operating in Cambodia.

But many local lawyers say that those operating without bar registration put Cambodian lawyers at a disadvantage.

“If you’re not part of the bar, you cannot practise,” said lawyer Sok Sam Oeun of the Cambodian Defenders Project, citing the time and costs involved with becoming a member of the bar.

“The problem is [that] it is unfair for Cambodian lawyers.”

In a post to his blog last weekend, US Ambassador to Cambodia William Todd wrote that the Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia had “issued notices to foreign legal advisors operating in Cambodia, summarily declaring their services to be in violation of Cambodian law.”

Todd noted that under the World Trade Organization, which Cambodia joined in 2003, foreign legal advisers can provide services when working in association with a Cambodian law firm.

“By preventing companies from working with the law firms of their choice, BAKC’s actions discourage foreign companies from investing in Cambodia,” the ambassador wrote.

According to one source at a foreign-owned legal firm, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivities of the issue, the Bar Association has this year called on representatives of various international legal firms to justify the nature of their work, without offering clarification on the rules governing foreign lawyers.

“Rather than calling in foreign lawyers like criminals to account for themselves based on some vague references under their archaic rules, why doesn’t the Bar Association actually provide some clear guidelines as to how foreign lawyers can register and practice law in Cambodia?” the source said.

The Bar Association has accused foreign lawyers of operating illegally for well over a decade, even pursuing lawsuits against firms such as DFDL in 2003 on similar grounds.

But recent efforts appear to have ramped up as the number of foreign lawyers has increased in country, with the bar publicly accusing foreign firms of illegal action five times since 2013, according to its February 17 letter from this year.

In one instance from 2014, it sent out a notice urging the public to “be aware” of “foreigners who call themselves lawyers or anyone not registered with the BAKC.”

Bar Association officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

MOST VIEWED

  • Investors’ $14.4M projects approved

    New investments from local and foreign sources continue to pour into Cambodia despite the Covid-19 pandemic remaining a lingering threat to regional and global economies. This comes as the Kingdom’s gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to contract between one and 2.9 per cent this

  • NagaWorld casinos set to reopen, schools to follow

    NAGACORP Ltd has requested that it be allowed to reopen its NagaWorld integrated resorts in Phnom Penh after the government recently approved casinos to operate again, provided they follow Covid-19 prevention measures set by the Ministry of Health. Mey Vann, the director-general of the Ministry

  • Rubber exports stretch 17%

    Cambodia exported 97,175 tonnes of natural rubber in the first five months of this year, surging 17 per cent compared to the same period last year as the Covid-19 pandemic stretches on, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries official Khuong Phalla told The Post on Thursday. Phalla,

  • ASEM supports Kingdom’s proposal to postpone meeting amid Covid

    The 13th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM13) scheduled to be held in Cambodia in November has been postponed until mid-2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation press statement released on Saturday said. The decision was made during a two-day meeting

  • Coffee maker roasted for producing fake product

    The Ministry of Interior’s Counter Counterfeit Committee will send a suspect to court on Monday after she allegedly roasted coffee mixed with soybeans and other ingredients, creating a product which could pose a high risk to consumers’ health. On the afternoon of July 2, the

  • Cash handout programme 80% complete

    Minister of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation Vong Soth confirmed on Thursday that the implementation of the Cash Transfer Programme For Poor and Vulnerable Households During Covid-19 had been implemented for more than 80% of the over 560,000 families. The programme was introduced one week ago.

  • Cambodia armed with money laundering laws

    Money laundering will now carry a penalty of up to five years in prison while those convicted of financing terrorists will be jailed for up to 20 years, according to new laws promulgated by King Norodom Sihamoni and seen by The Post on Thursday. Comprising nine

  • Where is Cambodia’s exit strategy that can save the economy?

    With the prospect of being slammed by a double whammy, the government is working on an economic recovery plan to deliver it from Covid-19 and the EU’s partial withdrawal of the Everything But Arms scheme in the next two to three years Cambodia is

  • Schools to be reopened in ‘three stages’

    With guidance from Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, is in the process of reopening schools in three stages. But no timeline has been set, ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha said on Thursday. Soveacha said the first stage will be to

  • Kingdom, UN discuss rights

    A year after Cambodia received 198 recommendations from UN member countries, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR-Cambodia) met with the Cambodia Human Rights Committee (CHRC) to discuss following-up on the Kingdom’s third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and