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ACU accepts request to monitor judicial exams

A man walks past the Anti-Corruption Unit office last year in Phnom Penh.
A man walks past the Anti-Corruption Unit office last year in Phnom Penh. Pha Lina

ACU accepts request to monitor judicial exams

Ending an impasse with the Justice Ministry that began last year, the Anti-Corruption Unit has announced that it will monitor examinations for the Kingdom’s future judges and prosecutors for the first time.

ACU vice president Nuon Bophal said the body had finally agreed to monitor the exams because the Justice Ministry accepted strict standards similar to the ones instituted for high school exams since 2014. Bophal said the ACU would be invited to inspect tests at every stage of the process, and cheaters would be fined.

“The ministry opened their hearts to the ACU,” he said.

In a statement last November, the ACU rejected a request from the Ministry of Justice’s Royal Academy for Judicial Professionals to monitor its seventh annual exams, stating that the academy had shown no interest in cooperation with the ACU in the past, presumably due to stricter demands for transparency.

While the ACU has never monitored the judges’ exams before, it previously monitored ones for court clerks. The Justice Ministry itself also has not administered the judges’ exams until now, with the six previous rounds handled by the Council of Ministers.

The ACU’s rejection caused the exams to be delayed. Originally slated for December 8 and 9, they will now be held on February 27 and 28.

“The ACU’s participation will enhance responsibility and transparency in the judicial exam process and make sure the results are acceptable to all,” Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin said yesterday.

ACU head Om Yentieng did not elaborate yesterday on the roots of his organisation’s dispute with the judicial academy, but said the ministry had since “set up principles and committees”.

“These are the principles under which we agreed to participate,” he said.

Yentieng said, however, that the judicial exams still had “holes”, because it was the Justice Ministry’s first time administering them.

In total, 837 candidates for the exam are competing for only 50 spots this year.

Whether the ACU’s move will help the judiciary shake off its reputation as one of Cambodia’s most corrupt institutions remains to be seen.

According to a report from the International Bar Association released last September, bribes required to enter Royal Academy for Judicial Professions ranged between $30,000 and $50,000.

Am Sam Ath, senior investigator with rights group Licadho, recognised the corruption’s vast scale but was hopeful.

“If the ACU becomes part of the process . . . corruption should be reduced,” he said.

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