Today, it is my great honor and pleasure to join the Conference on the Launching of the Civil Code and the Civil Procedure Code, a very important national event in establishing the legal framework of Cambodia and a reflection of the Royal Government’s will to successfully achieve a number of fundamental laws as determined.
Having experienced several decades of wars, especially the Khmer Rouge regime, Cambodia had been almost totally destroyed in terms of the foundation of economic and social infrastructure, tradition, customs and religious belief. Among which the legal framework for managing the country was also almost completely demolished.
After the 7th January 1979, although the nation and the people had escaped the genocidal regime, the war had been lingering for years. At the time of economic sanction from abroad amidst domestic war and peace we have started from the scratch to gradually rebuild and rehabilitate our nation by giving great attention to all sectors, in which the legal framework for country management has also been re-established.
In this spirit, in 1998 under the technical cooperation from Japan and France, the Cambodian government, with the Ministry of Justice as the executive body, prepared the Civil Code and the Civil Procedure Code as well as the Criminal Codeand the Criminal Procedure Code as a contribution to the building of legal framework for country management.
At the present, these four fundamental codes which are the strong pillars of the statute law have been almost completed. The Civil Procedure Code was launched on the 6th July 2006 and put into effect on 6th July 2007. The Criminal Procedure Code and the Civil Code were launched on the 10th August 2007 and the 8th December 2007 respectively; while the draft of the Criminal Code was finalized and submitted to the Council of Ministers on December 2007. Besides preparing the civil and the criminal code, the government will also prepare the administrative and the commercial code.
Obviously, for Cambodian who made the determination to prepare these codes as an ambitious project with democratic will, respect for human right and dignity because these tasks are related to the law and these laws must be widely disseminated and understood by the public.
I would like to recall that there are two factors that require big reform areas for preparing these codes (1) historical context (2) political will. Historical context is because of Droit écrit which is a part of Cambodian customary law. Following the French, law is a historical heritage of French colonization in Cambodia. In the 1950s Cambodia has drafted the civil, criminal and commercial code. On this point, I would like to highlight that at the present time Cambodia is establishing personal legal culture by synthesizing the national customary law with the institutional and technical attributes of other systems which will improve the whole Cambodian legal system.
Political will is primarily originated from the perception that the varieties and pluralities of legal texts have reduced the access to justice and affect the equity of case rulings. Very often, judges’ enforcement of the laws faced may challenges and vary from provinces to provinces. The lack of clarity and uniformity of the law leads to fragility in the justice system and the loss of public confidence on the judicial and governmental institutions. The political will is also originated from the government’s conscience which considers the code as a tool of good governance and the rule of law since the code facilitates and promotes public access to law, justice and law dissemination.
Practically, both the Civil Code and the Civil Procedure Code are the necessary tools for the ongoing operation of the civil court to ensure fair rulings and justice for the people. Since the civil legal texts are dispersed and weak, it is necessary to pool these texts together to facilitate the study by organizing these legal texts in a uniform and consistent manner and also filling the loopholes to create these two codes, namely the Civil Code and Civil Procedure Code, to serve as the legal bases for the judges’ rulings and process of the civil cases.
Indeed, the Civil Code is a set of base law which coordinates the capital relationships, valuable to physical and legal persons as well as coordinates the relationship between citizens and citizens, physical and legal persons, legal persons and legal persons including the ownership, exchange, compensation, family and will relationship. The Civil Procedure Code is also a base law which is enforceable on everyone who can freely be the subject of goods exchange in a free market society. In particular, legal relationships involving normal citizens include marital and capital relationships. Out of these, capital relationships refer to the ownership or real right of properties and transactions with other people or contracts. On the other hand, domestic relationships refer to the relationship between relatives such as marriage or parents and children, and the forming of family. Along with this, the Civil Procedure Code is the base law for general enforcement while the commercial law is for specific actions or subjects, which is called special law. In principle, other important private laws must follow the principles of the Civil Code.
On the other hand, the Civil Procedure Code is the whole body of legal procedures involving the initiation and process of complain procedures in civil courts. Civil cases are reserved for civil courts’ judgment which is based on the law to protect individual rights as stated in the constitution and the law.
In short, the Civil Procedure Code is an independent law of the state’s judicial system which sums up all the legal procedures and social relationships which arise between the courts and other stakeholders in legal procedures while the courts give judgment on civil cases to protect the legal rights and benefits of all citizens.
To implement the tasks stated above, each competent judge who hear the civil cases and is obliged to reconcile, investigate, sentence or enforce its ruling must possess deep knowledge of the civil law which is stated in the civil code, law and legal texts relating to the civil cases. Moreover, each judge must possess a clear foundation as well as intelligence and knowledge about the details of the Civil Procedure Code since the Civil Procedure Code has determined the competence and duties of the courts, prosecutors, parties, and other relevant stakeholders during the courts’ judgment. Therefore, through each process, if the courts have deep legal knowledge, both in the Civil Code and Civil Procedure Code, it is a strong foundation to find the real truth in order to give the right judgment.
This conference has been organized in a framework to educate and disseminate Civil Code and Civil Procedure Code to the law and court professionals including judges, prosecutors, clerks, lawyers, relevant institutions and the people in public to participate in enhancing the awareness about law and ensuring efficiency of implementation because all societies in the modern period are to face awareness and legal dissemination in order to lead, manage and ensure the social peace, national and international exchange, which is significant for the understanding of the legal principles.
Therefore, the education and regular dissemination of the legal texts in all time has been adopted as a first stage to make sure the democracy system is built conforming to the constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia. In actuality, along with the training and education to disseminate law on Civil Procedure Code the Ministry of Justice, which is a Government agency on this issue, has been actively implementing with remarkable results. Along with that, in order to enhance the efficiency of the implementation as well as participating in promoting the rights to receive additional information on civil law and justice, I would like to instruct the Ministry of Justice to additionally publish this code as well as preparing to disseminate to the relevant institutions and people in public more extensively.
The preparation of the Civil Code and Civil Procedure Code aims at gathering all kinds of provisions related to the civil areas to make sure the law practitioners and the people in public are fully aware of the law foundation and the legal procedure of the process and judgment of the civil case.
In this sense, the Civil Code adds and modernizes the property network and relative relationship, marriages, families and heritage as well as basic principles, which ensure the dignity of each individuals, equality between male and female and the rights over property, which has been stipulated in the Constitution and the response to the social development.
As for the civil procedure code, it supplements and brings about perfection to the following procedures:
1. The complain procedure which is used for deriving final judgment by judges or the court on non- existence verdict of the rights of parties as stipulated by the Substance Law.
2. The forcible enforcement which is a procedure used for achieving the implementation of rights finally set by the court verdict.
3. The protection management, which is a transitional procedure, being established to ensure the implementation of the rights of creditors in the future.
So, the approval of this Civil Procedure Code is going to actively participate in strengthening the rule of law, democracy, and the protection of right and dignity of the people in the Kingdom of Cambodia. Moreover, the approval of this code will contribute to the modernization of the legal framework in accordance with the reform policy of the Royal Government in order to ensure general agreement in relation with the protection of rights, human benefits and the society as a whole. This approval will also help to strengthen the judicial institutions, particularly the enhancement of efficiency in civil justice provision to the people as well as ensuring social progress, facilitating the access to information about the law and court, and providing legal safety to people.
To achieve the government’s commitment conforming to the Action Plan for the implementation of the legal and judicial reform strategy, the Ministry of Justice, which is the government agency for judicial sector, must put further efforts on some important works as follows:
1. Continue making efforts in strengthening the legal institutions and push for the adoption of basic laws such as the Criminal Code, Law on the Status of Judges and Prosecutors, Law on the Organization of Court, the amended Law on the Organization and Functioning of the Supreme Council of the Magistracy, Status of Court Clerks, Status of Notary and Status of Bailiffs.
2. Put more efforts into the education sector for the officials of legal and judicial professions in accordance with the development of Cambodian Law and new technology beneficial for the judicial sector.
3. Strengthen and extend the legal awareness campaign to law enforcement institutions and the public.
Before ending, I would like to take this opportunity to express my deep gratitude to Japan for providing the technical cooperation in preparing the Civil Code and the Civil Procedure Code, and France for giving technical cooperation in preparing the Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure Code.
I would like to also thank the Ministry of Justice for organizing this Conference to disseminate the Civil Code and theCivil Procedure Code. I hope that this conference will inform all participants the mechanism for code preparation in Cambodia, general concepts, main principles of the Civil Code and the Civil Procedure Code.
I wish the Conference a productive result as expected and wish Your Excellencies, Ladies, Gentlemen and all participants the Four Gems of Buddhist Blessings which are longevity, nobility, wealth and, strength. May I now declare the opening of the Conference on the Launching of the Civil Code and the Civil Procedure Code.