Prime Minister Hun Manet has instructed all sub-national authorities to be ready to cooperate with the National Authority for Out-of-Court Mediation to resolve people’s conflicts in their areas, as soon as a draft Royal Decree on the establishment, organisation and functioning of the body comes into force.

Manet issued the orders during the October 30 declaration of Kampong Speu province as mine-free and the inauguration of a new provincial administration building.

“The provincial and district authorities should be ready to provide their full support and cooperation to resolving disputes, as the people will be the beneficiaries,” he said.

He instructed Koeut Rith, Minister of Justice and president of the National Authority for Out-of-Court Mediation, to begin providing information about the benefits of the new mechanism to all officials, so they will know how to participate and find justice for member of the public more effectively.

“Resolving conflict and finding justice does not always need to take place in court. Finding a resolution based on compromise between the two sides is important to ending a conflict. We do not want anyone to win or lose; the best way to end a war is through the win-win policy,” he said.

According to Manet, although this mechanism is not as absolute as the judicial one, it is traditional. He noted that mechanisms like this one have contributed to ending many conflicts in villages, communes or districts for many years, through the mediation of local authorities or older people.

He stressed that the new system aims to bring fast, efficient, quality justice services closer to people in the places they live and work. Providing people with this kind of mediation mechanism will ensure a peaceful and harmonious society, much as former Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Win-Win Policy had done in the late 1990s. It will also help to address the current backlog of case in the Kingdom’s court system.

“Conflicts which have been addressed through this new mechanism will be considered resolved, with no further resolutions to court action. The authority’s record of the final agreement reached will hold the same power of implementation as a final verdict issued by a court,” he explained.

Kampong Speu provincial governor Vei Samnang said the provincial authorities would be ready to cooperate with the new national body. He noted that his administration has resolved conflicts out of court in the past, but sometimes with limited effectiveness, as the parties involved did not always accept the verdict.

“The prime minister’s establishment of this new initiative will help people save a lot of money and time, as they will not have to go through lengthy court proceedings. Our province is ready to participate, to ensure the process works smoothly for all of our people,” he added.

Am Sam Ath, deputy director of rights group LICADHO, believes that the expansion of out-of-court mediation services to the local level would move services closer to the people.

“If civil disputes are resolved at the local level, it would be good. If people are willing to accept the decisions of the out-of-court mediation body, it will prevent small disputes from becoming larger and resulting in legal action,” he said.

He added, however, that there should be close cooperation with local authorities to increase the efficiency of the mechanism, and build the trust of the public.

During the October 27 Cabinet meeting which approved the draft of the Royal Decree, Koeut Rith explained that the new body is designed to provide services to the public by mediating conflicts and ensuring peace and social harmony, while reducing congestion in the courts.

“The new mechanism will not replace the judiciary, which will continue to play its role. The new body will provide technical support and cooperation with local authorities as actors to promote and effectively resolve disputes for local people using mediation and conciliation,” he said.

The draft Royal Decree, comprising six chapters and 22 articles, defines the establishment, organisation and functioning of the authority as a complementary mechanism to the Kingdom’s dispute resolution systems.