If we do not enforce the law properly or have dishonest intentions, please, all spirits and demons, condemn us to misery ...
CAR crashes, lightning strikes, gunshot wounds ...
These grisly fates – along with 500 lives’ worth of karmic suffering – await officials from the government’s newly established Anticorruption Unit who fail to discharge their duties properly, assuming that yesterday’s swearing-in ceremony at the Appeal Court in Phnom Penh holds cosmic force.
The 14 officials who gathered yesterday were granted powers equivalent to those of judicial police in a prakas, or edict, signed last week by Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vatthana. ACU head Om Yentieng presided over the ceremony, imploring the spirit world to seek swift revenge against any officials from the group who stray from their responsibilities.
“If we do not enforce the law properly or have dishonest intentions, please, all spirits and demons, condemn us to misery, death by bullets, death by car crash, death by lightning strike, separation from our families and 500 lives’ worth of misery,” Om Yentieng said.
“If we perform legally and honestly, please, all spirits and demons, help us to have long lives and health, wealth and prosperity in our next lives.”
Ouk Savuth, prosecutor general of the Appeal Court, said the 14 officials vested with police powers in yesterday’s ceremony had to serve as paragons of morality in the eyes of the Cambodian public.
“If our high-level justice police let us down morally, who can the people rely on?” he said.
Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said last week’s prakas seemed to have given the 14 ACU officials sworn in yesterday the power to open investigations, gather evidence and question witnesses.
The ACU was one of two bodies created earlier this year when the National Assembly passed the Kingdom’s long-awaited Law on Anticorruption.
Om Yentieng said last month that some ACU officials would be issued weapons as they began their battle against graft.
“We need to consider and prepare for safety, because those behind corruption crimes will also have weapons and we have to ensure that our officials will not get injured,” Om Yentieng said.
He pledged to set up a website that would detail the unit’s activities and publicise the asset declarations of government officials.
SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said, however, that those expecting a successful assault on corruption by the ACU may have to wait for another lifetime.
“These kinds of oaths – oaths to preserve territorial integrity, to fight corruption, to protect national assets – these are not enforced in practice,” Yim Sovann said. “Assuming that this precedent continues, I don’t believe the ACU’s work will be effective.”
United States Ambassador Carol Rodley said last year that the Kingdom lost roughly US$500 million in revenue per year to corruption, a remark government officials later labelled “politically motivated and unsubstantiated”.