AFTER more than a decade of planning and revisions, Cambodia yesterday officially launched the key law governing society – the Civil Code.
At a ceremony attended by more than 300 legal professionals, students and ministry officials, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An applauded the implementation of the law, which technical teams had been working on since 1998.
The Cambodian Civil Code, which runs to nine volumes, is essentially a code of basic rights governing all forms of legal relationships between private parties.
“This law is to deal with all legal relationships that people are involved in such as property relations and business contracts,” he said. “It is also to deal with family relationships such as marriage, parents and children and succession.”
The Civil Code remedies several “loopholes” in other laws, Sok An said, including the Law on Marriage, where age provisions and restrictions were inconsistent and outdated.
Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana said the implementation of the Civil Code marked a new chapter in history for civil society.
“It is an important tool for the people to find justice in their lives,” he said.
The Ministry of Justice had been working with the Japan International Cooperation Agency for more than 10 years on drafting the more than 1,300 articles that constitute the law.
Yasujiro Suzuki, chief representative of JICA in Cambodia, said the law was only as good as its implementation.
Not only do judicial officials need to know this law inside and out, but there also needs to be efforts to raise awareness among people because “the content of law is intimately involved with how people live their lives”.
The sheer expanse and complexity of the Civil Code in fact delayed its implementation by nearly four years, as drafters developed a separate Law on the Application of the Civil Code so legal professionals would understand how to use the text.
“The problem is that some of the legal terms – even the lawyer has difficulty understanding them,” Community Legal Education Centre executive director Yeng Virak told the Post. “And the Civil Code will override a number of other legal provisions in other laws like the Land Law.
“The law will help protect the rights of the ordinary person and does help give clarity to some ambiguous legal issues,” he added.
Many civil society organisations who oppose the draft Law on Associations and NGOs believe the law is unnecessary because the Civil Code provides for the formation of “non-profit” associations and foundations.
The provisions for forming and registering associations and foundations under the Civil Code are looser than those stipulated in the fourth generation of the draft NGO law.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY BRIDGET DI CERTO