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Bar chief talks reform

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Om Yentieng speaks at the handling over after becoming the president of Cambodia's Bar Association's new president. Hong Menea

Bar chief talks reform

The Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia’s (BAKC) new president yesterday vowed to get tough on corruption and ensure bribes are not a prerequisite for becoming a lawyer.

Speaking to reporters at his transfer of power ceremony, which also saw two new batches of lawyers enter the bar, Suon Visal said he would create a committee to examine previous allegations of bribery surrounding entry into the profession.

“I have heard about [these allegations] before I came into office,” Visal, who was elected as president in October, said during the event at the Hotel Sofitel Phnom Penh.

“If any colleagues or people know about this issue clearly, file a complaint to me and I will take action.”

In a 2015 report, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute slammed the Cambodian bar as politically biased and corrupt, citing reports that lawyers faced unofficial fees of up to $30,000 for admittance to the bar.

The report also slammed the Kingdom’s underfunded legal aid sector.

Speaking yesterday, previous BAKC president Bun Honn said a drop in NGO legal aid services had increased pressure on the bar’s legal aid department, which last year handled 2,024 cases, an increase of 23 percent compared with 2015.

BAKC’s government-provided legal aid budget would rise from about $100,000 to $150,000 this year.

Meanwhile, attendees also heard the Justice Ministry and Anti-Corruption Unit would assist the BAKC in its current dispute with the Finance Ministry, which wants to levy a professional tax on lawyers.

ACU President Om Yentieng said more work needed to be done before such a tax was implemented.

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