A civil dispute over a loan – which has remained unresolved for over 14 years – has finally reached a solution, thanks to the newly-established National Authority for Alternative Dispute Resolution (NADR), a mechanism for resolving civil, commercial and other kinds of disputes as permitted by law through mediation and conciliation out of the court system.

A June 7 press statement from the NADR General Secretariat explained that both parties had filed a legal complaint over the loan agreement, and had seen the case go all the way from the court of first instance to the Supreme Court, a process which had lasted more than 14 years.

Despite the highest court in the land offering a final ruling, neither party was satisfied with the decision and tried to find other possible solutions. Their last resort was to file a complaint to the NADR when it opened its doors to receive cases on March 1.

“Following more than two hours of mediation by the NADR, the long-running case was resolved, with all parties agreeing to end the dispute and agree on the settlement mediated by the NADR,” said the statement.

It added that this is the first case that has been successfully resolved within the framework of the NADR, in a mechanism led by Poch Sophoan, a member of the NADR.

NADR said it is continuing with its efforts to expedite the process of reviewing and resolving the remaining cases it has received, as quickly and effectively as possible.

Un Chenda, an official at the NADR, told The Post that as of June 10, the authority had received more than 80 complaints. 

She explained that before a settlement could be reached, each case needs to go through a specific series of procedural steps, including the selection and training of officers to mediate disputes, the preparation of legal documents and other technical aspects, each of which requires a lot of time.

“We have almost completed the preparation process and are energetically beginning to review the cases we have received,” said Chenda.

Officials from rights groups have identified many positive aspects to the use of an out-of-court dispute resolution mechanism.

Am Sam Ath, operations director of LICADHO, told The Post that he expected NADR to offer several benefits to the public, provided they have a clear understanding of the new system. He believed it would reduce a backlog in court cases and save people the time they would ordinarily spend on attending court sessions.

“In addition, it should reduce resentment between the parties involved in the dispute, which is important as they may be neighbours who live in the same village. Through this mechanism, they can access mediation and reach an acceptable agreement. In many cases, people go straight to court, which takes a lot of time and money, and often means the parties can no longer even look at each other,” he said.

“With an out-of-court dispute resolution, it is not a matter of winning or losing, like it is in the courts. It is a matter of mediation, which means they are more likely to go along with each other. I think out-of-court dispute resolutions could solve a lot of disputes,” he added.

To ensure a broad public understanding of the new system, Sam Ath urged the authorities to increase their efforts to disseminate the details of NADR, including its role, duties and procedures.

"Once the general public is well aware of it, when they have problems or issues within the scope of this mechanism, they will file complaints to the authorities for resolution. Naturally, this mechanism is on a voluntary basis and deals only with civil cases,” he added.