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Bar Association elects new president for two-year term

Bar Association elects new president for two-year term

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But lawyers say incoming president Chiv Song Hak must work hard to uphold the standards of the legal profession

Photo by: Vandy Rattana

Candidates for the Bar Association presidency await the verdict of their peers.

THE Cambodian Bar Association

elected a new president Thursday amid demands that the organisation

work to stamp out corruption in Cambodia's judiciary.

Chiv Song Hak overwhelmingly won a vote by some 467 other lawyers after

several other candidates abruptly withdrew from the race.

Lawyer Nou Tepirith, one of the main candidates for president,

surprised his supporters by appearing on stage and endorsing Chiv Song

Hak.

"I announce now that I will withdraw myself as a candidate in this

election," he said to the assembled lawyers. "I do not want to compete

with my colleague Chiv Song Hak. I see his policy in leading the bar is

like mine, so I can step away without any sorrow."

Three other candidates pulled out prior to the election, leaving just three to run for the presidency.

Runner-up Puth Theavy said he did not withdraw his candidacy because

"to run as president is a democratic right" honoured by the Bar

Association.

"The bar will not be under an executive power or any other

institution," he said, adding that he received demands to withdraw his

candidacy, but resisted them.

"I want to serve my profession. I want democracy," he said.

Tough challenges

Outgoing president Ky Tech said Chiv Song Hak would have to be tolerant

and would "face many challenges" during his time in office, expressing

his hope that the new bar boss would work hard to "prevent any lawyers

from violating their profession".

Sok Sam Oeun, president of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said that

the withdrawal of the other candidates was their own concern.

"Some may not hope to win so they step away," he said. But he said that

while the bar has met many challenges in each term, there was still

room for improvement.

Sok Sam Oeun said that although there was no evidence that some lawyers

bribed judges to win court cases, he urged the bar to stop such

behaviour if it is found to exist.

"If there is a case like this, the bar should create a rule to punish those responsible," he said.

"The Bar Association should think of introducing such rules."

 Cambodia's judiciary is frequently targeted as one of the Kingdom's

most corrupt institutions, with cash for favourable settlements a

common feature of most court cases.

Observers have also complained about the qualifications of many judges.

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