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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Fair warning

Fair warning

The US report on corruption in Cambodia looks pretty detailed, but not many Cambodians

dare to tell more specific examples about the issue. However, a Khmer folk tale below

may explain a similar case that may happen in Cambodia now.

Once upon a time, there was a rich woman named Chandear who built her fortune by

helping rich people to win lawsuits with poor people.

The reason wealthy people came to her for help was because she knew all judges and

officials in the government.

After solving a case, Chandear would be given tens of thousands of Kahapanaks (ancient

currency as opposed to US dollars), which she then bribed all the high-ranking officials

who were her accomplices and treated them to a feast of good wine and food served

by pretty maidens she had hired. Chandear used this trick to neutralize justice and


Chandear had committed such corruptions for many years. The country's affairs became

so confusing that right turned to be wrong and vice versa, because all the wrongdoers

and those who wished to have good jobs and positions at various ministries often

came to her for help.

Therefore, the people who had done right turned to be wrong and those who had done

wrong turned to be right. The guilty people turned to be declared innocent and the

innocent turned to be declared guilty. Those who were not qualified got good jobs

and positions while those who were qualified remained unemployed.

Poor people became so upset with what happened in the society that they decided to

seek a royal audience with the Bodhisattva, who was the king at that time.

The king then assigned some spies to look into the matter, but they too were fooled

by Chandear and could not find the truth for the king.

Thus, the king decided to have his head and moustache shaved and disguised himself

as a prisoner. He then went to ask Chandear for help.

The king told Chamdear that he was a son of a wealthy family in a province who had

murdered someone. He said he would give her as much money as she wanted. Chandear


The king went back to the palace. In the morning, Chandear invited all the dignitaries

who were her accomplices at different ministries for a feast.

Those high-ranking officials were very pleased at seeing her as they clearly knew

that they would get more money from her.

At dusk, the king disguised himself as the prisoner, carrying twenty thousand Kahapanaks

to give to Chandear. A while later, all the corrupt officials arrived. Then, the

pretty maidens brought wine and food for each official according to their ranks.

After the feast, Chandear told the prisoner to salute and offer a wreath of flowers

to each official and to give the different amount of money according to their ranks.

The king remembered the faces of those officials very well as he gave flowers and

money to them. After the feast had finished, the prisoner in disguise said goodbye

to Chandear and went back to the palace.

The next morning, the king ordered those dishonest officials to come to see him in

the palace. He also made up himself as the prisoner, but he only wore turban and

fake moustache and covered himself with woolen cloth. After all the officials had

gathered, the king removed his turban, woolen cloth and moustache. It was then those

corrupt officials knew that the prisoner was the king.

The king sent some soldiers to get Chandear. Then he asked her to identify the officials

who had received bribes from the prisoner.

Both Chandear and those officials could not have any excuses and they were therefore

willing to accept due punishments.

The king made an order to confiscate all the properties and houses of those corrupt

officials. Then, he made another order to have them tied and paraded in the capital

and make them confess loudly to the public for three days before deporting them out

of the country. After that, the king appointed the new officials to replace them.

This is the end of the folk tale. I'm afraid to say whether Cambodia has the kind

of corrupt officials in this story. But, at least we do have a similar king who cares

about our suffering and can help ease our grievances.

Moeun Chhean Nariddh - Phnom Penh



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