Accountability NGO Transparency International Cambodia (TIC) yesterday called on Cambodian citizens to help tackle everyday corruption at an event marking International Anti-Corruption Day.
Addressing an assembly in the capital convened by the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU), Preap Kol, executive director of TIC, said all Cambodians could claim a stake in the fight by committing themselves to not seeking or paying bribes, reporting corruption and only supporting candidates for public office who adopted an anti-corruption platform.
“When every Khmer citizen has succeeded in upholding [these] points, I will seek to close down Transparency International Cambodia,” he said.
The address was coupled with the release of a video by TIC that documents ordinary Cambodians lamenting the constraints placed by graft on individuals and social development – from road quality, to competition in the job market, to bureaucratic processes like obtaining a birth certificate.
Speaking at yesterday’s event, Om Yentieng, director of ACU, said 2016 would see the government boost efforts to clean up petty corruption, such as that among traffic police and low-level bureaucrats.
However, others said that shifting the onus for tackling graft onto citizens and focusing on corruption in everyday public services deflected from a larger problem.
“We really want a top-down fight against corruption,” said San Chey, of the watchdog group Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, who pointed to corruption in the judiciary as the biggest source of social injustice.
“How can citizens begin to address the issue at a national level, for example, to really monitor the national budget, if the door is not even open?”
Yim Sovann, a spokesperson for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, echoed the view that tackling corruption was a question of political will at the highest levels.
“Cambodians are very worried about corruption, which is now everywhere, destroying competition between investors and as an obstacle to poverty reduction.
But this is not a house that needs to be cleaned from the bottom-up,” he said.
Noting the weak implementation of laws and alignment of the ACU itself with the ruling party, the spokesperson explained that “instead, we need to strengthen the system of checks and balances and increase the role of opposition parties”.
Reached after the event, Yentieng of the ACU declined to comment further.