Minister of Justice Koeut Rith has reminded the Kingdom’s lawyers that their profession is more than just a job, and that they must think of the dignity and prestige of the vocation as they think of their own.

Koeut Rith was addressing the closing ceremony of the 27th congress of the Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia (BAKC), where its president Ly Chantola was re-elected, on October 17. He urged all the lawyers present to adhere to the principles of law and professional ethics, rely on the principles of integrity and honesty to find justice for the people, as well as protect and promote their own honour and dignity.

The minister hopes that the BAKC, which currently has more than 2,000 lawyers as its members, will continue to encourage excellence and prestige within the profession.

“As prosecutor general of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court of Appeal Ouk Savuth said earlier, achieving our common goal of excellence and prestige within the legal profession must start with a common foundation – ourselves,” he said.

Koeut Rith stressed that while there are many lawyers, if a small number of them did not behave ethically, the prestige of the profession and public trust would be diminished.

He added that the same held true for the judicial branch. If judges acted ethically, they would be well-respected and their rulings would be accepted and free from scrutiny.

“If anyone involved in the legal process displays a lack of ethics or discipline, their actions could affect all of us. We are all familiar with the old proverb – one rotten fish can spoil the whole basket,” he said.

He said that although these rotten fish may reflect badly on those who strive to do good work, he believes that most lawyers are committed to promoting the excellence of their profession.

“We think of our vocation as a role we play in society, but we must also see it as part of ourselves. Building the honour, excellence and prestige of the legal profession is no different from building honour and prestige for oneself,” he added.

Appeal Court prosecutor general Savuth noted that when lawyers were previously assigned to defend the poor, some of them failed to dedicate themselves to the cases.

“You are not defending the impoverished every week, only when assigned by the BAKC. I ask all of you to expend as much of your energy and expertise to these cases as you would to your other work. This way, all citizens will learn that Cambodian lawyers are dedicated to finding justice for all, regardless of their social status,” he said.

As BAKC president for the 14th mandate, Chantola said he remains determined to implement the eight-point policy that he set out in his first mandate and to promoting the ethical practice of the profession to the grassroots level.

“In order to strengthen and enhance the professional abilities and reputations of lawyers, the association has identified 11 activities that we must undertake. Through the strengthening of mechanisms to monitor adherence to the ethics and rules of the legal profession – and capacity building – we will provide incentives for lawyers to contribute to social justice. This will also promote the welfare of our members and prevent non-lawyers from practising law,” he said.