Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Presidential spat divides Cambodian Bar Association

Presidential spat divides Cambodian Bar Association

Presidential spat divides Cambodian Bar Association

The Appeals Court will meet on November 10 to try resolve a dispute that has divided the membership of the Cambodia Bar Association (CBA).

The former president alleges that the new president breached the CBA's campaigning rules. It could results a new election being ordered by the court.

Suon Visal was voted into the CBA's top job last month, but former president Ky Tech said Visal's supporters continued handing out leaflets into the 'cooling off' period, or the 48 hours before the election.

Visal said the charge was baseless and could seriously effect the legal profession and the Bar's affairs.

"I did not do anything wrong during the election process," said Visal, who works for the non-profit Cambodia Defenders Project.

Outgoing president Ky Tech told the Post that the complaint was filed by his supporters late last month because the election was not free and fair.

"If the Appeals Court says it was free and fair, I will transfer to him," said Tech, adding that the result of the election is not official until the Appeals Court judgment.

"We did not complain about the preparation committee [that organized the election], but we filed a complaint about some candidates who violated the Bar's internal regulations," he said.

The complaint asked that the result of the election be nullified and the transfer of power to the new president be suspended until the conflict was resolved. If campaigning rules are found to have been broken, another three month campaign should take place, the complaint suggested.

Thou Mony will be the presiding judge in the Appeals Court case.

Chiv Songhak, a CBA council member who attended the voting, said he did not see candidates delivering leaflets on election day and thought the process was free and fair.

Ky Tech was criticized for playing politics after four high-ranking officials from the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) joined the bar in September despite not fulfilling the entry requirements. While their applications were being onsidered, the government gave the CBA a new building and later presented it with two vans.

Tech's challengers for the 2004-06 presidency were: Suon Visal; Puth Theavy, whose clients include former Khmer Rouge commander Chhouk Rin; Som Chandyna, whose clients include opposition leader Sam Rainsy; and Nou Tepirith of an independent firm.

In the first round of elections on October 16, Ky Tech received 103 votes, Suon Visal 88 votes, Nou Tepirith 40 votes, Puth Theavy 15 votes and Som Chandyna 19 votes. This did not meet the necessary majority in the CBA election system so a second-round runoff was held in which Suon Visal received 127 votes and Ky Tech only 108 votes.

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