With the Civil Code (CC) coming into effect on December 21, 2011, Cambodia now marks the 10th anniversary of the application of the Code.
The Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) – adopted by the National Assembly on June 7, 2007 – has played an important role in facilitating implementation procedures in dispute resolution in the civil sector at all levels of the courts.
A legal cooperation project between the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Ministry of Justice began with the aim of assisting in the drafting of the CCP and the CC.
The drafting process was facilitated by the creation of a working group in Cambodia and another in Japan. In drafting both Codes, the Japanese working group was divided into teams. First, the Japanese working group in charge was to prepare a basis for a first draft law after getting the locally relevant information from their Cambodian counterparts. The first draft law was then translated into Khmer and discussed among the working groups.
In discussions for the preparation of both Codes, the Japanese team provided only the contents and other significant concepts that were the basis of the drafting of both Codes. The final decision on the content of the Codes lay with the Cambodian group’s conclusions.
To facilitate discussions between the Japanese and Cambodian working groups, JICA dispatched Japanese long-term experts to the Kingdom to work directly with the Cambodian Ministry of Justice as legal advisers.
They also provided training through seminars and workshops. Decisions on the drafted codes were scrutinised before it was determined whether to use certain Khmer terminologies properly in legal language, to clearly divide them within the law procedure and to thoroughly discuss through one article to another in the drafting of both Codes.
The application of the CC was a watershed for Cambodia to have such a substantial law that could resolve all types of issues related to the rights and obligations of the citizen regarding civil matters.
‘Response to actual needs’
And with difficult roads leading to a beautiful landscape, the difficulties regarding both the drafting process and the implementation of both Codes cannot be escaped.
While there have been opinions hailing the CC and the CCP as modern laws, there has been some criticism of the use of new terminologies in both Codes that could make them difficult to understand and apply.
Responding to the criticism, HE Chan Sotheavy, the current manager of the Legal and Judicial Development Project, said “the provisions related to the civil sector are complicated, so if we do not prepare the content of each article and use clear terminologies, it could lead to complexity in implementation and would make it impossible to differentiate each article or each procedure stipulated in the law”.
“The usage of new terminologies, therefore, is not strange because those could be new to Cambodia, but if we take a look at the law of other countries, those words have been used in the drafting procedure of some countries such as Japan as an example.
“The significant factor in the preparation of law is we must prepare a law that can address all related issues of the civil sector as well as the defence of the people’s legal right and legal interest.
“The means to win the hardness, complexity and criticism is that we must jointly put our effort and try to understand the reasons and the benefits of the usage of those new terminologies, and we shall increase the dissemination both the contents of the Codes and the benefits of using new terminologies extensively to legal professionals and the general public,” Sotheavy said.
The only female permanent secretary of state of the Ministry of Justice added that further dissemination of the codes among the public was necessary.
“The enhancement of knowledge on both Codes is strong but in need of more intensely passionate energy from all legal professionals who will take part in helping general citizens to know what the law is about.
“The cooperation of the implementation on Legal and Judicial Development Project has contemporarily advanced to Phase V.
“In this phase, we focus on the drafting of legal norms related to the CC and the CCP, the drafting of model legal forms to make it easy for legal practitioners to use, and the disclosure of court’s decisions for the public all over the country to understand the courts’ decisions. The project has already completed the disclosure of 64 civil court decisions.
“The activities of the implementation of this phase is a response to the actual needs of Cambodia,” Sotheavy said. A landmark framework in Cambodian law, the enacting of the CC marked a milestone for the Kingdom’s legal system.
And from the drafting of the CC and the CCP until the implementation of Phase V of the project, it reflects great success in cooperation for civil sector development in Cambodia.