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Can’t see forest for the fees

The Anti-Corruption Unit has said it is investigating claims that students are paying bribes of $5,000 to pass Forestry Administration entrance exams, while others – even those at the top of the class – are failing because they can’t afford to do the same.

According to a statement dated April 3 and posted on the agency’s website this week, the ACU is investigating complaints relating to a Ministry of Agriculture department director, Thai Vuthy.

This follows an undisclosed number of students claiming Vuthy was overseeing a recruitment process full of “irregularities”.

“The unit has requested Mr Thai Vuthy to clarify the above case,” the ACU statement said.

Two complaints by students at the Royal University of Agriculture in Cambodia and the Prek Leap National School of Agriculture, one filed in August and the other last month, allege students pay between $4,000 and $5,000 to “pass” the exam, the statement added.

“Students with the ability to pass this test with scores of 80 to 90 per cent are failing. The test scores are not reflective of the students’ real work,” the ACU said.

Vuthy, the director of the personnel unit in the ministry’s human resources department, vigorously denied the allegations against him yesterday, putting the complaints down to a “total misunderstanding”.

“The charges are wrong and contrast with the facts,” he said. “Those who passed did so because of their abilities. Those who scored high on the tests passed with flying colours.

“We tested students on all subjects related to agriculture, not only forestry.”

Vuthy added that he had already explained this in a clarification letter he sent to the ACU on April 11, along with exam documents.

“No bribes were paid. These exams were handled by a committee. [Minister of Agriculture Chan Sarun] is very careful.”

Corruption in government ranks is something that plagues the Kingdom.

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