Minister of Interior Sar Kheng instructed civil servants to take action against their colleagues who are working in public service while privately practising law. Lawyers who hold government posts, he warned, have three months to decide which career they intend to pursue.
Sar Kheng’s instruction, dated February 28, detailed the incompatibility between serving the public and taking on private clients.
He said the officials in question have to choose just one of the two professions. Should they opt to be an interior ministry official, they must change their Bar Association status to inactive or request to be deleted.
The ministry will liaise with the association and all units at the national and sub-national level to corroborate the names of the affected officials.
“In the event that a civil servant is practicing law and is not determined to be inactive or removed from the association’s registry, the head of his or her unit will advise the individual to choose one profession within three months of the issuance of this instruction,” Sar Kheng said.
“If the applicant does not choose a single profession, the head of the unit must report them to the ministry in writing. Their name will then be deleted from the ministry’s registry of staff,” he added.
Liv Sovanna, secretary-general of the Bar Association in the Kingdom of Cambodia (BAKC), thanked Sar Kheng for issuing the instructions, saying that they were an important reminder to those who serve as lawyers and public officials.
“The instructions are in line with the terms and conditions of practicing law in the Kingdom. BAKC supports and thanks [Sar Kheng] for making this clear,” he said.
Sovanna said if a lawyer wants to work at a government institution, they must submit an application form to BAKC, which would suspend the lawyer’s membership for the duration of their posting. The bar had published a list of practicing lawyers so the public could easily discover if someone had followed correct procedures and suspended their registration.
“Any lawyer who is caught breaching these guidelines will face disciplinary action by the association. BAKC encourages members of the public and government employees alike to inform us of any instance where these incompatible employment circumstances are taking place,” he added.