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‘No more lawyer shortage’

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Lawyers from across the Kingdom attend the Bar Association congress in Phnom Penh last year. Hong Menea

‘No more lawyer shortage’

While the Appeal Court complains of a shortage of lawyers during trials, senior officials at the Kingdom’s top Bar association say it has hundreds on standby to provide legal representation in a timely fashion.

Appeal Court spokesman Touch Tharith said the court had submitted a proposal for more lawyers to the Justice Ministry, which is the only institution entitled to request for them from the Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia (BAKC).

“When hearing a criminal case, we need to have lawyers. By law, when we have a trial for a criminal case, we must have lawyers to represent the defendant. Without the presence of lawyers, the case cannot proceed,” he said.

Newly elected BAKC president Soun Visal told The Post on October 4 that he was aware of the issue.

However, he said lawyer shortages were not a concern anymore.

“We have lawyers standing by permanently in court. We have 500 volunteer lawyers in court throughout the country . . . When a court needs a lawyer, it would notify us. We have defence lawyers to represent defendants.

“The issue would not affect legal proceedings anymore. We’ve stepped up our efforts.

“We have a mechanism in place to provide defendants with our services in a timely manner,” he said.

Visal said the BAKC also has lawyers to represent poor defendants, thanks to an annual funding of nearly $300,000 from the government.

He said there are around 5,000 cases each year in which defendants are unable to afford legal representatives.

The funding, he said, could cover around 3,000 cases.

The BAKC, he said, has held regular meetings with court officials at all levels to address the issue.

“The court provides one or two rooms for us to use [during trials]. Most of our rooms are adjacent to the courtroom,” he said.

Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Yung Phanit, deputy head of the BAKC’s department of legal defence for the poor, told The Post that by law, a court must submit a request to the Justice Ministry, which then forwards the proposal to the Bar association.

He said the process can be completed through social media app Telegram.

“Now, we still follow this process. The issue of defence lawyer shortages has been reduced by 90 per cent already."

“I acknowledge the problem still exists, but only in a few cases. The fastest way to request lawyers is through Telegram,” he said.

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