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IRI survey finds Cambodian majority optimistic over future

IRI survey finds Cambodian majority optimistic over future

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Motorists watch as construction workers build a bridge over the Tonle Sap river in Phnom Penh last month. Poll respondents pointed to such projects as evidence Cambodia is headed in the right direction. Photograph: Hong Menea/Phnom Penh Post

The vast majority of Cambodians – 81 per cent – believe the Kingdom is headed in the right direction, according to an International Republican Institute survey on democratic governance released yesterday.

Key reasons respondents gave for their upbeat assessment included the building of more roads, bridges, health clinics and schools.

For the 19 per cent who think the country is headed in the wrong direction, the prime culprits were corruption, nepotism and high commodity prices.

IRI’s survey results were compiled from 2,000 face-to-face interviews conducted in all 24 of Cambodia’s provinces over a one-month period from November to December last year.

The group identified corruption as a key theme in public opinion and, across the board, perceptions of corruption in local/municipal and national government officials have increased since the last public opinion survey in July, 2010.

Even for those who said the country was headed in the right direction, 31 per cent said “most” or “all” government officials were corrupt.

For those who said the country was headed in the wrong direction, this figure jumped to 64 per cent.

While on average, 15 per cent of Cambodians said they had witnessed an act of corruption or bribe-taking, this figure was skewed drastically according to the education of responders.

Of those with no education, 11 per cent said they had personally witnessed an act of corruption or bribe-taking, while this figure jumped to 43 per cent for university-educated respondents.

The definition of “bribery” was not explained to respondents, and Koul Panha of election monitoring group Comfrel said the concept of bribery was often confused with “gift-giving” and there was not enough education about illegal payments for public services.

Cambodia’s own Anti-Corruption Unit earlier this week acknowledged that bribery at the commune level was rampant and launched a crackdown on illegal fees.

Another trend identified by IRI was a lack of food. The group found that three per cent of households are so impoverished they cannot afford rice even once a week.

The results released yesterday were only a portion of the public opinion survey.

Other results related specifically to political parties were released to those groups in confidence.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bridget Di Certo at [email protected]

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