Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vathana highlighted improvements made to the Kingdom’s judicial system at the 2nd Session of the 6th Legislature on Thursday.
In a meeting led by National Assembly President Heng Samrin, Vong Vathana was questioned by lawmaker Pen Panha, Committee of Legislation and Justice Chair at the National Assembly.
Other National Assembly members present at the meeting included Sam Rithy, Hun Many, Chheang Vun and Pen Siman.
In response to a question from Panha, Vong Vathana said his ministry had improved the Kingdom’s physical infrastructure in the judicial sector, as well as enacted a modernisation of its institutions.
“The Ministry of Justice paid high attention to the building of physical infrastructure and institutional modernisation, both at the ministry and at all levels of tribunals. This is to improve the provision of services for our citizens."
“We improved the infrastructure of the ministry to respond to an increasing volume of tasks, as well as the increasing number of civil servants,” he said.
Vong Vathana said all 24 provinces and Phnom Penh will soon have provincial courts of their own.
Three provincial courts – namely in Kampong Speu, Tbong Khmum and Stung Treng – have been constructed, while provincial courts in Kampong Chhnang and Svay Rieng provinces are awaiting budget allocation from the Ministry of Economy and Finance, he said.
The ministry is also examining the possibility of constructing the Kep provincial court by 2020.
Vong Vathana said that “Battambang, Preah Sihanouk and Tbong Khmum province [Appeal Courts] are scheduled to be put into use in 2020”.
The Minister of Justice continued that his ministry was actively promoting legal assistance programmes for the poor, as well as out of court dispute settlement services for citizens.
He said the ministry was closely cooperating with Cambodia’s Bar Association in preparing lawyers to defend cases for the poor, with 415 of Cambodia’s 1,000 lawyers on call to volunteer in such cases. Volunteer lawyers help defend some 2,000 cases for the poor each year, Vong Vathana said.
In addition to legal aid, there is also a legal consultation service for the poor that services some 300 cases each year.
“No matter how remote the province is, there are at least five lawyers on standby to provide defence services to the poor free of charge,” he said.
Sam Rithy, a parliamentarian from Kampong Speu province, probed Vong Vathana over free legal services in the provinces, saying that an increase in publicity is needed.
“If I am not wrong, there are as many as 10 centres for legal service delivery [in Kampong Speu province]. I just want to emphasise that overall it does not seem to be publicised and residents are not aware that there are legal service delivery centres for them,” he said.