Opening Speech

of H.E. CHAM Prasidh

Minister of Commerce

at the Launching of the ADB-sponsored Project DIAL Research Station

- Development of the Internet for Asian Law -

Ministry of Commerce, May 29, 2002


Mr. Urooj Malik,

Professor Graham W. Greenleaf,

Ms. Patricia Baars,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to have the opportunity to invite all the guests today to witness the launching of the DIAL Research Station Project at the Ministry of Commerce. The Project DIAL which stands for "Development of the Internet for Asian Law" is a project funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and we are honored that the ADB has chosen, first, Cambodia as part of its regional outreach program and, second, the Ministry of Commerce as the focal point for the dissemination of these valuable legal resources. On this note let me extend, on behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia, our most sincere appreciation for ADB's continuous assistance to Cambodia's development process.

Also I would like to extend a warm welcome to the ADB technical team led by Professor Graham W. Greenleaf. Prof. Greenleaf has been appointed as Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law since July 2001. He is Co-Director and Professor of Law at the University of New South Wales Faculty of Law and, among other numerous activities, is Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Australasian Legal Information Institute (AustLII), one of the largest free access law sites on the web.

Prof. Graham Greenleaf and his team will present us what the Project DIAL is, what is in it, what is special about it, who operates it and who will benefit from it. Most of you here present will be the trainees I need to see emerging as trainers for Project DIAL when this ADB team will leave Cambodia.

Some of you might be wondering why the DIAL research station has to be located within the Ministry of Commerce. Let me give you a few reasons. First and foremost, the Ministry is responsible for the development of a series of commercial legislation including, among others, the Commercial Enterprises Law, Insolvency or Bankruptcy Law, Commercial Arbitration Law, Commercial Contract Law, Secured Transactions Law. On the emerging area of intellectual property legislation or so-called IPR, the Ministry has just seen its Trademarks Law being adopted by the Parliament. Moreover, I also chair the IP interministerial steering committee, which oversees and coordinates the drafting and implementation of the Trademarks Law and 2 other IP laws, namely Patents and Industrial Designs Law, and Copyrights Law, which are respectively under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Industry, Mines, and Energy and the Ministry of Fine Arts and Culture. In the area of regional and global economic integration, like ASEAN, GMS, and WTO, the leadership of the negotiating think tank is also situated right here. You are also quite aware that I am also the Vice-Chairman of the Council for the Development of Cambodia in charge of investment portfolio. While this may seems a lot of accumulation of duties, it is in fact in line with the Royal Government's efforts to rationalize and bring coherence into our overall economic and trade policies. The recent success of the Integrated Framework (IF) pilot scheme is a solid testimony of this new trend.

For those who are not aware of the IF, it is an initiative of the 6 multilateral agencies, UNDP, ITC, IMF, UNCTAD, WTO, and the World Bank to assist LDCs like Cambodia to build domestic capacity to benefit from the global trading system. Cambodia was selected as one of the pilot scheme countries along with Madagascar and Mauritania. So far Cambodia is starting to deliver concrete results.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Recently, as part of our efforts to join the WTO, the Council of Ministers has approved the setting up of four inquiries points, namely the TBT Inquiry Point, the SPS Inquiry Point, the Services Inquiry Point, and the WTO Legal Compliance Focal Point, the latter two being located within the Ministry of Commerce. The DIAL research station will prove to be of great use for members of our legal team who are working on various WTO-related legislation. Moreover, other stakeholders from other line ministries, the academia, and the civil society can have access to these research materials too. I have for that purpose reorganized office facilities on the ground floor of this building as the WTO Reference Center which, when completed, will house this DIAL research station.

In the meantime, the training facilities will be temporarily located on the second floor of this building where about 10 computers are fully connected and ready for use. On this note I want to thank the DIAL project for providing 2 computer sets and help share the cost of the Internet connection.

Speaking about high tech connection, the Ministry of Commerce is probably one of the most futuristic and vanguard ministries, which has capitalized on the high tech Internet revolution. For example, in the garment industry, we are connected real time online to the US Customs Services on the issuance of our electronic visa system via the ELVIS system, and with the EU Customs via the SIGL system. For trademark registration and worldwide search, we are linked with the WIPONet of the World Intellectual Property Organization. We are now setting data base retrieval system for company registration. For WTO matters, we are linked with the WTO database through the WTO Reference Center. We are also connected to the library of the International Trade Center in Geneva through which network most of trade data are available for market research.

Speaking of the future, the ADB will provide us with legal support to draft the e-Commerce legislation, which is due to start in the next few months. As you are well aware, Cambodia is fully engaged in the e-ASEAN Initiative of which I am also the chair. Also in the pipeline is the ITC's e-Trade Bridge project, which we hope will kick start soon with the support of UNDP.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The reason why I take a long time to explain our web links with other networks is because I see Project DIAL comes at the right time with the remaining pieces to complete our IT legislation puzzle. By providing to all of us the means to have access to the huge and growing quantity of legal materials available on the Internet's World Wide Web (www), Project DIAL will help us gain a better knowledge of what legislation is practiced in neighboring countries, especially WTO members. It would reinforce our understanding on ways and means to achieve full compliance to WTO rules and regulations. I understand from my conversation of yesterday with Prof. Graham Greenleaf that there is an opportunity from the University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law and/or the Hong Kong Legal Information Institute to assist Cambodia with WTO Accession & Compliance. Since the Ministry of Commerce has been chosen as an Inquiry Point for WTO Compliance, I am very supportive of such assistance from the University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law and/or the Hong Kong Legal Information Institute. As such, Cambodia might be the first LDC in Asia to be selected as a pilot-country for WTO Compliance.

This DIAL project, which aims to make it easier to find and use legislation-related material from the Internet will complement and mutually support the various, ongoing and future initiatives I have mentioned earlier. The use of the research station is free, open, and accessible to members of the legislative and executive branches as well the judiciary branch. It will be open to an extent reasonably possible, to the public, too. Anyway, since access to the Internet Law Library is available free of charge to everyone, anyone who has a computer connected to the Internet will be able to surf the Internet for texts of legislation from over 100 countries, including those of Cambodia. In the first stage, information on the Cambodian laws and regulations would be available only in English. Once we solve the problem of Khmer Font Unicode on the Internet, there will be legal texts available in Khmer, too. Students from the Phnom Penh Faculty of Law and Economics would be able to provide the French version, if the French Government provides some little money for translation work.

I understand that Prof. Graham Greenleaf intends also to provide an additional support to incorporate another feature to Project DIAL through helping set up a search mechanism in order to surf through all the available legislation, thus facilitating legal research. Indexing and searching law on the Internet is a must, and I am very grateful for Prof. Greenleaf to come out with such opportunity and to come out without any additional costs to our Government.

The Ministry of Commerce will operate this research station in coordination with a local training associate, the Cambodian Legal Resources Development Center (CLRDC), which will provide the necessary legal research capability to surf through the legal database. On this note, I want to thank CLRDC Executive Director Ms. Patricia Baars for her technical support on this project. I would like to mention that, about 2 years ago, Ms. Baars was part of a legal team which has assisted the Ministry in preparing the Law on Business Enterprises, which to my great satisfaction, was adopted by the Council of Ministers last month and is now on the way to be adopted by the Parliament. I am sure that had the DIAL database been in place at that time Ms. Baars would have had fewer headaches conducting legal research. Anyhow from this day onwards, by solving the problems of finding law on the web through World Law and DIAL, life for those involving in legal research would certainly be easier than before.

During the next few days, Prof. Graham Greenleaf and his team will train DIAL trainers from the Ministry of Commerce, other government ministries as well as some NGOs. The Ministry of Commerce will assume responsibility of future training of a large number of government officials, students and the business community.

Thus, for all of you, I recommend that you "dial DIAL for a DIALogue on Law in the Web."

On this note, let me declare this session open and wish the Project DIAL a great success.

May I wish all the participants the best of luck.

Thank You.