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Interior ministry officials told to choose between civil service and legal profession

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Interior minister Sar Kheng has told its national and sub-national officials to decide if they wished to work in civil service or as lawyers. Hean Rangsey

Interior ministry officials told to choose between civil service and legal profession

The Ministry of Interior has told its national and sub-national officials to decide if they wished to work in civil service or as lawyers.

Minister Sar Kheng issued the directive last week, saying the ministry had noticed its staff working as lawyers while also being State officials.

He said doing so goes against the law governing public servants, National Police, and prison officials.

“The Ministry of Interior instructs all government personnel to decide if they wished to work as civil servants or lawyers,” Sar Kheng said.

Lawyers who do not want to work in the profession have to submit a request to The Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia (BAKC) and have their membership suspended.

Non-functioning lawyers have to make a copy of the BAKC’s decision and submit it to the Ministry of Interior’s staff department to keep as a record that they are civil servants with legal experience.

Sar Kheng said officials who want to continue working as lawyers need to resign or take leave.

“In case you don’t want to leave the civil service, submit a request form specifying that you agree not to take a salary and that you work as a professional lawyer as the law and procedures require,” he said.

He instructed all units at the national and sub-national levels of the ministry to prepare a list of civil servants who work as lawyers, including those in the national police and prisons.

BAKC deputy secretary-general Liv Sovanna told The Post on Sunday that the Bar Association had not received any requests from the ministry.

He said the law specified that a lawyer cannot take on another profession while working as lawyers, because conflict of interest questions could arise.

“The law says a lawyer cannot work at another job and are banned from doing so,” Sovanna said.

Sovanna said he wants the ministry and other ministries to thoroughly check whether their officials are lawyers.

Cambodian Institute for Democracy president Pa Chanroeun welcomed the ministry’s directive which made the clear distinction of working as civil servants or lawyers.

He said ensuring a clear career path is a good way for individuals to ensure responsibility in their work.

Chanroeun said working two jobs happens at other ministries too. This should be reviewed because the institutions will suffer, he said.

“Choosing a clear profession gives civil servants enough time and avoids conflict of interest with other institutions. It can also prevent corruption,” Chanroeun said.

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