Minister of Justice Koeut Rith has advised all judges to help coordinate and mediate between the parties involved in a dispute before rulings are issued. He noted, however, that this kind of coordination and reconciliation should not be applied to criminal cases.

Koeut Rith gave the advice while presiding over the appointment of Phong Van as chief of the Kampong Thom Provincial Court. Van replaces Leang Sour, who was appointed a member of the Supreme Council of the Magistracy on May 24.

The minister said the ministry has been focusing on preparing both political and legal frameworks to develop mechanisms to resolve disputes out of court through mediation wherever possible. It is hoped that a core of professional mediators will be developed from these changes. It is hoped that increased mediation will help to clear the current backlog of legal cases and move dispute resolution practices closer to the people, which in turn will strengthen harmony in the community at the grass roots level.

“All judges should try to mediate between the parties in conflict and resolve the case before making the decision to issue a verdict or judgment, but this must not be applied to criminal cases,” he said.

To enhance work efficiency and increase the trust of the public in the Cambodian judiciary – as well as to protect and enhance the dignity and reputation of judges, prosecutors and other court officials – he advised the new Kampong Thom Provincial Court director to honour his pledge responsibly.

He hoped that Van will continue to work hard to fulfil his duties and help the provincial court to grow, as well as serve justice more effectively. In particular, he hoped Van will develop better cooperation with the authorities and all law enforcement officers – in the spirit of mutual respect according to their respective roles and duties as mandated by the law – and adhere to the highest standards of professional ethics in the best interest of the nation and honest service to the public.

Am Sam Ath, deputy director of rights group LICADHO, said the minister’s advice was a good strategy for resolving civil cases.

“If all judges can try to mediate between the parties in a civil case with transparency and in the spirit of justice – and the parties agree and accept it – it will reduce conflict and can stop grudges from being held. It will mean complainants will be able to live together in harmony in the community. It is also a model which will reduce the sheer number of court cases because they will have the chance to negotiate and reconcile before filing a complaint with the courts,” he said.