The Minister of Justice requested that the International Labour Organisation (ILO) cooperate with it to accelerate the establishment of a dedicated Labour Court, saying the new court would promote transparency and efficiency, and encourage the trust of the public in judicial reform.

Justice minister Koeut Rith met with Graeme John Buckley, ILO director for Thailand, Cambodia and Laos, on October 11 to discuss preparations for the court.

He outlined the ministry’s vision for the judiciary, saying the establishment of dedicated labour and commerce courts had been set as priorities. These courts would offer rapid, trustworthy judicial services to the public.

He added that establishing the courts would require three pillars. Human resources – from judges to clerks – would need to be trained. Legal frameworks including substantive and procedural laws would have to be developed. Finally, financial resources would be needed to build the physical buildings for the courts.

Cambodia currently operates just criminal and civil courts, so all cases involving labour disputes are dealt with by the civil court. Although there are provisions in the law for a labour court, they have not yet been put into motion.

Lawyer Sok Sam Oeun said that the establishment of the new courts would be excellent progress. Currently, many overworked judges were hearing civil and criminal cases, which made it difficult for them to issue clear verdicts. He was also of the view that the ethics of judges must be examined.

Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions president Yang Sophorn hailed the establishment of a labour court, saying that many disputes stalled, due to the civil courts failing to give them priority.

“We have sent several labour disputes to court. The procedure is lengthy and no concrete solutions were found because the court staff are not always well versed in employment law. A dedicated labour court could play an important role in solving problems and would issue consistent verdicts. It would reduce the backlog of cases and prolonged disputes because it would focus on labour issues,” she added.

She expected that the new court would be able to find justice for exploited workers. She also expected that it would be independent and unbiased.

She requested that the government establish a monitoring commission to assure genuine justice.

Ministry of Justice secretary of state Chiv Songhak said the two courts might be in use as early as this year, but a specific date has not yet been fixed.