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High Potential for Alternative Dispute Resolution: Legal Advocate

Meas Savath, president of the Cambodian Center for Mediation.
Meas Savath, president of the Cambodian Center for Mediation.

Alternative dispute resolution could be a means to circumvent the courts for many Cambodians in order to adjudicate small everyday issues, a legal rights advocate says.

Meas Savath, president of the Cambodian Center for Mediation, told VOA Khmer recently that the formation of alternative resolution mechanisms requires voluntary participation, meaning the results are usually satisfactory for both parties.

Such dispute resolution can be a way for Cambodians to circumvent a court system that many mistrust as biased or ineffective.

Alternative dispute resolution, or ADR, “gives more chances for disputing parties to talk to each other,” Meas Savath said. “It does not cost a lot of money.”

This type of arbitration also takes less time than the courts, he said. Some disputes take as little as two days. The mechanism can address small disputes such as broken contracts, verbal assault and land demarcation between neighbors, Meas Savath said.

“Agreements would have to come from disputing parties,” he said. “They are responsible for implementing the agreement.”

However, Meas Savath, who is on a fellowship in Washington to study ADR, said a lack of legal obligations to put agreements in place is a weakness of the system. And Cambodians are often less apt to open discussions about their disputes than Americans, he said.

“Culturally, Cambodians do not have much to say in finding solutions to their conflicts, which requires a mediator to encourage them to engage in discussion,” he said. “They tend to seek decisions from the moderator.