Cambodia's failure to enact anti-corruption legislation has
highlighted the current government's shortcomings in tackling graft, opposition
political parties and civil society groups say, adding that greased palms and
golden handshakes are a critical issue ahead of July's general elections.
A raft of new anti-graft measures,
including 15-year prison terms for government officials convicted of bribery, remain
stuck in legislative limbo, despite repeated demands by Cambodia's
foreign donors that anti-graft laws be passed.
Justice Minister Ang Vong
Vathana acknowledged that the draft anti-corruption legislation has yet to be
reviewed by the Council of Ministers, but told the Post on May 27 that its approval "will help to eliminate
The draft was submitted to
the council in June 2006.
However, a group of
non-government organizations, the Civil Society Coalition for Anti-Corruption, has
accused the government of lacking the political will to enact the law during
its current term of office.
Sek Barisoth, who heads an
anti-corruption program with Pact Cambodia - a member of the
coalition - said on May 20 that the National Assembly was in recess and there
was no indication the law would be enacted before the national vote on July 27.
Another member of the
coalition, Yong Kim Eng, president of the People's Center for Development and
Peace, added that the law's long delay - its enactment was promised to donors
by 2005 - only underscored the levels of corruption plaguing government.
Cambodia remains at the bottom if the corruption list compiled
Berlin-based graft watchdog Transparency International, which ranked it 162 out
of 179 countries in its 2007 Corruption Perceptions Index.
The country is estimated by
the economic think tank Economic Institute of Cambodia to lose as much as $350
million each year to graft.
"We know that there are
powerful people in the government who are corrupt and this delay of 14 years
makes civil society suspicious about the government's commitment," Kim Eng
He said the coalition had on
May 16 submitted to the National Assembly and the Council of Ministers a
petition containing the signatures or thumbprints of 1.9 million people from
throughout the country urging that the draft law be enacted without delay.
It was the fifth time such a
petition had been submitted to the assembly and the council since 2006 amid
growing public anger over corruption, Kim Eng said.
Opposition political parties
have also taken aim at the ruling Cambodian People's Party, which they blame
for the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars that could otherwise be used to
improve the lives of the country's people.
contributed to social instability, violence, inflation and poverty," said
Eng Chhay Eang, secretary general of the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP), adding that
graft has also kept foreign investors from Cambodia.
While CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap
admitted that corruption remained a major problem for Cambodia, he said
the opposition was exaggerating its extent, adding that the ruling party would
also push through anti-corruption laws "in the first six months after the
Barisoth welcomed the parties' graft-fighting commitments, but warned that
anti-corruption legislation had to have the teeth enough to tackle graft.
are happy with those parties commitment to pass the anti-corruption law during
the first six months after election, and we need an anti-corruption law that
meets international-standards," Barisoth said.