Minister of Interior Sar Kheng on Thursday reaffirmed his vow to bridge societal divides by undertaking a major reform of the justice system. However, he warned that the task was huge and may take some time to achieve.
Speaking at the 41st anniversary of Victory Day to commemorate the fall of the Khmer Rouge in Battambang province, Sar Kheng said: “The government has formed a working group to resolve land disputes in the localities outside the jurisdiction of the courts as it is not necessary to forward minor disputes to them.”
His assurance came amid criticisms from alleged land dispute victims of inaction.
Last year, the Ministry of Justice said that a World Justice Project Rule of Law Index that ranked Cambodia 125th out of 126 nations was “politically motivated”.
Its spokesman Chin Malin told The Post on Thursday that access to proper justice would ensure a harmonious and peaceful society.
“The ministry recognises the significance of [the law] so it has heeded calls for judicial reforms. We have taken great strides to develop human resources, prepare legal frameworks and policies.
“We have also established the courts as a physical entity and instituted a series of mechanisms to inspect and monitor the system.
“But this work requires time and participation from all parties involved. It is a joint effort that will not be achieved in a single day, a month or a year,” he stressed.
Malin said that the Ministry of Interior’s working group to resolve land disputes outside of the court system may be aimed at preparing new structures at the sub-national level for provinces, towns and districts to provide people with advice and counselling.
Adhoc spokesman Soeng Sen Karuna said the public was eagerly anticipating the government’s justice reforms with the hope that they would empower the people and political parties.
He claimed that the public had lost confidence in the justice system as a whole – from judicial police officials to the higher and lower courts.
“The judiciary has lost the trust of the public and the international community. We must wait and monitor the progress to see if headway is made after [Sar Kheng’s] remarks. What methods will be used to carry out the reforms so that justice will be served?” he asked.
In his speech, Sar Kheng also highlighted the government’s efforts to reform the sub-national level the administrative systems in the districts. He said the government had strengthened its human resources and provided more funds to provide better services.
“In 2020, the government released a budget of $70,000 per district – a twofold increase over last year,” he said.