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Judicial Reform Not Moving Fast Enough: Experts

Seng Theary, president of the Center for Justice and Reconciliation.

The justice system is plagued by a history of bad luck and the lack of current political will for reform, despite efforts to rebuild it since the arrival of the UN in the early 1990s, legal development experts told “Hello VOA” Thursday.

The legacy of the Khmer Rouge, which destroyed the courts, and former control by Vietnam both hampered the development of the system, said Seng Theary, president of the Center for Justice and Reconciliation.

“It is only now that we have time to think about restoring the courts, which began in 1993 when Untac and the international community entered,” she said.

Meanwhile, politics has divided the three branches of government, corruption has entered the training process for court officials and the courts are inadequately trained and equipped, she said.

Only about $2 million per year is spent on 26 different courts, including the Appeals and Supreme courts, she said.

Am Sam Ath, a rights investigator for Licadho, who also joined “Hello VOA” Thursday, said the courts lack independence, despite constitutional guarantees that theoretically separate power between the branches of government—executive, legislative and judicial.

“We have seen that there is interference from the executive branch in some ways, which leads to the issue of independence as still being a problem,” he said.

Trainee judges should be selected on merit and not be involved in political parties, he said, and should be taught to avoid corruption.