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The Role of Cambodian Law; My Perspectives

by Lay Vicheka

August 8, 2005

"Was Cambodia able to build the world's largest religious temple, if that era was today"

Lay Vicheka (2005)

"Unless willingness is the initial persuasion of law-making, law's goal will never achieve"

Lay Vicheka (2005)

The matters of fact, followed by the matter of law are two of the daily heated discussion of Cambodia's social havoc. Protracted disputes over land, political, economic and social issues, etc have become, I think, the daily images painted on the Cambodian public media. So how is this country going to solve these conflicts? What mechanisms to be used for the conflict-resolutions? What are the causes of these conflicts? The following statements tempt to answer to above questions. For an easier procedure and understanding, I would consign my argument and elucidation into Cambodian perspectives and context. I would rather say from the very beginning that my writing is totally opinioned-based; data, political and legal analysis are not involved at all.

Law Is Mostly Used in Handicapped Mechanism

From the very outset, I would begin by looking into Cambodia's incurring negative events published in the public press. Everyday, we see the social, political, economical drawbacks appeared on the public press, so the law-related persons or entities do analysis, basing on legal ground. As the result, problems are arisen the committers are illegal or lawless, messing public orders and legal measures must be taken to obstruct these conductivities from future occurrences. We see that this is the perspective that "law is a mechanism to create problem (for better tomorrow)". But law doesn't mean to be deployed in just one side like this. Law must be deployed in twofold; a mechanism to create problem(s) and to solve the problem(s).

However, is law totally deployed as a measure to solve the conflict? Most or maybe all of the Cambodian people and international opinions would say no to this question. As we can clearly see through the public press, conflicts haven't been fully resolve through legal path, since bribery, corruption, collusion, political relation, etc. These are some of the factors, that most of the Cambodian public and foreign analysts view that conflicts haven't totally been resolved though the legal path.

Legal path, I refer to here, must be "general" and "absolute". General: Cambodian law must equally apply to every Cambodian national. For instance: if law states, "everyone must drive 55kms per hour". This means that everyone; adults, government members, members of parliament, senators, private company staff, diplomat...etc must driver 55kms per hour and any breaching of this rule would result in bad consequence. Absolute: there would be no exception for anybody. If law states that this person must be killed, there is nothing can obstruct the law; though is person is the senior official, millionaire or philosopher. Absolutism also refers to that law has no choice, there is only one way out. For easier to understand, let me bring a practical example: in the market you have the choice between the products, whether you want to buy or not to buy the product, but law is different you have only one choice; follow it. Until the two of my imposed characteristics of law; general and absolute, are ubiquitously applied, then I believe that law in Cambodia is not used in just one way anymore.

Dim Legal Perspectives In Cambodian Context

Because it is not a mechanism to solve the conflict, we see that law has a very dim light in Cambodian state of affairs. Most of the Cambodian people and international opinions have very little or no confidence at all with Cambodian legal officials, systems and enforcement. This is, I think, the major problem that law is thought as not a good subject for future job prospect for a huge number of students. Because a huge number of students see law as "not money-oriented", Cambodia is losing a sector that creates employment diversity, specifically jobs related to law.

Since people don't really trust legal perspective in Cambodia, we see that lawyers are employed very little in the family, companies, factories and other state and business entities.


It is very hard, I believe, to touch the Cambodian legal ground and make my argument efficient in such a piece of paper. But since, I am not the professional ego-issue monitor and analyst, I would rather condense my expression to what are my daily encounters. And I still courageously claim that, Cambodian law is not adequately deployed; just a mechanism to create the conflict. I just want to remind that law must also be deployed as the mechanism to solve the conflict. The result of handicapped usage of law, as we can see, countless turbulences are perpetually stirring; land issues, violent rape, domestic violence, paramount traffic accidents, and increasingly legal downturn and economic downward spiral.

The most vital essence of law, I think, is "justice", but this justice would have more prospects to be gained, until law becomes day-to-day operation, and not just a piece of paper that any can buy or not to buy.


The author is a second year student of law at the University of Phnom Penh.

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