The Constitution provides that the courts are independent. The courts consist of municipal and provincial courts of the first instance, an Appeal Court, and a Supreme Court.
- Can a foreign investor file suit in Cambodia courts?
Foreigners may file a case in a Cambodian court.
- Do the courts recognize decisions of foreign courts?
The Civil Procedure Code allows for this although it would require a bilateral agreement with the foreign country and currently no such bilateral agreements are in place. As such, courts in Cambodia would likely retry a case on its merits rather than enforce a foreign judgment.
- Are commercial cases heard by the same courts that hear other civil and criminal matters?
The courts currently are not separated as in most civil law countries. As such, a commercial dispute would be heard in the court of the first instance or municipal court, which also tries criminal cases. Cambodia has passed a law to set up a commercial court, but its establishment will take time as the government trains judges and court personnel.
- Are there records of previous decisions of the court and are they binding?
Precedent plays little role in the decisions of the courts in Cambodia, which is a civil law country, and the judgments and reasoning in one case would only be instructive or guiding for a judge hearing similar cases. There is some case law available at this time from the Constitutional Council which is empowered by the Constitution to find if a law is constitutional, and also from Supreme Court.
- What alternative ways are there to resolve disputes? Does Cambodia have a viable arbitration system?
The 2006 Law on Commercial Arbitration is modeled after UNCITRAL. Under the law, National Commercial Arbitration Center (NCAC) has been established, which arbitrates commercial disputes and allows for international arbitrators. Investors are free to arbitrate outside of Cambodia.
- Does the country follow international agreements on recognition of foreign arbitral awards?
At law, foreign arbitration is valid and binding under the laws of Cambodia. Cambodia is a signatory to the 1958 United Nations Convention on Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (the New York Convention) and has adopted the 2001 Law on Approval and Implementation of the United Nations Convention on Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. The courts have been faced with the issue of enforcement and have upheld a foreign arbitral award.