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Justice Handbooks Issued to Help Solve Disputes

Cambodians may soon start to see handbooks on conflict resolution as a way to keep them out of court and friendly with neighbors.

New handbooks were announced by the government and UNDP on Tuesday, the fruit of a lengthy pilot project with dispute centers.

The ministries of Justice and Interior began providing mediation to villagers in 2006, hoping to keep them out of court, a process that can be expensive.

The rural justice centers were part of a pilot project under the Council for Legal and Judicial Reform. The handbooks were produced as a result of the project.

“At the time it was clear that the demand for justice was bigger than the courts could provide,” said Dorine van der Keur, international coordinator for UNDP’s Access to Justice Program.

The services are especially aimed at the poor, the indigenous and women, all of whom lack access to justice, she said, speaking at the distribution of the handbooks.

While some conflicts must be resolved in the courts, the justice project demonstrated a need for mediation, providing lower costs and faster results than the courts, and allowing both sides in a dispute to take responsibility for the solutions, she said.

“After these handbooks come out, we have a real and fair formula,” said Sok Bora, a project manager for the Ministry of Justice. “We will implement or operate in conformity with the rules and formulas of these handbooks.”

Phon Bunthal, deputy chair of the Legislative Council at the Ministry of Interior, said the handbooks can help people save money and “continue friendships and relationships.”

Doung Sarith, head of the Peany commune dispute committee in Kompong Tralach district, Kompong Chhang province, said the committee had 32 disputes in 2009 and mediated all but two.

“My work went smoothly and effectively in the mediation and justice services for all walks of people,” he said.

Pov Sao, 55, from Santuk district in Kampong Thom province, said he had participated in a dispute resolution.

“I liked the mediation,” he said. “I did not lose my money and my time.” He also salvaged a friendship with a neighbor, he said, “in a small land dispute.”