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App aims to report bribes

Cambodians may soon find it easier than ever to report official corruption, and not just to the authorities or their friends and neighbours, but to the whole world, thanks to the impending launch of a Khmer-language version of the graft-reporting smartphone app Bribespot.

Already popular in Thailand – with 194 reports, mostly since the launch of a Thai version last August – the tool allows users to pinpoint a spot on a map where they have been a victim of corruption, usually bribe-taking, and to post a short description. The app’s founder, Lithuanian-born developer Artas Bartas, said yesterday that the Khmer-language version of the app should be finished by next week.

Speaking at a Phnom Penh workshop introducing the tool yesterday, Transparency International Cambodia executive director Preap Kol said that the app gave people “another platform to solve social problems, particularly corruption”.

“Often times, people say, to fight corruption, you need political will … but in Cambodia, it’s difficult to imagine [politicians] having real political will,” he said. “If leaders don’t have political will, fine. We will find the people who have the will.”

Bribespot has yet to reach a critical mass of posters; as of yesterday afternoon, there were about 320 reports displayed on the site worldwide. By comparison, a similar but older project called I Paid a Bribe has recorded more than 19,000 allegations in India alone.

Bartas, the app’s creator, acknowledged at yesterday’s event that “whatever success we’ve had has been grassroots”, but added that word of mouth and encouragement from local partners would help make the app part of the wider public discourse.

“There has been discussion in forums, expat communities, because foreign corruption is very frustrating … and some locals have embraced it too,” Bartas said. “But to get to the point where we influence policy makers, we need to work with local partners.”

Indeed, Cambodia has already seen some early adopters, with 19 reports detailing everything from a $2 informal payment for a visa photo to a $5,000 bribe reported for “illegal luxury wood trading”.

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