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MPs draft graft-busting bills

T WO new laws are to be proposed by MPs to curb corruption among members of the government and businessmen.

Still in the draft stage, the laws are expected to be among the few to be introduced by MPs rather than ministries.

The chairman of the National Assembly's Human Rights Commission Kem Sokha is proposing a law which will make it mandatory for all holders of public office including members of the central and provincial governments and judges to declare all their assets annually on Jan 31.

"Every one should submit a public statement to a new Vigilance Commission which will be formed under this law. The commission will check whether the officials have correctly declared their wealth. It will then issue a public statement about all their assets on June 30th," Kem Sokha said.

The other law, which is wider in scope, hopes to create a National Anti-corruption Board which will function first in Phnom Penh and gradually in all the provinces. The board will hear corruption complaints against both government officials and private individuals.

According to the law, corruption is defined as the taking of state property or the property of another person and both the giving and taking of bribes.

"This is not a board just to try government officials, we all know that private individuals like businessmen are also corrupt. We hope to punish everyone who is involved in bribery, both those who give and those who take,'' says BLDP MP Son Chhay, the author of the law.

The board is to have five members, who will be appointed by the National Assembly and the Chairperson will be appointed by the King. No one holding a public office will be allowed to be a member. "The board will investigate the charges independently, it will not depend on information given by the government," Son Chhay said.

Actual trials of those accused of corruption will be conducted by courts, but if the board finds a person guilty it will publicly recommend their removal from office. It can also recommend that the person not be eligible to enter into any business relationships or employment in the country.

Son Chhay hopes that eventually the board will have offices in all the provinces, and will hear complaints from ordinary individuals against anyone. "That is ambitious, we hope that will happen in about five years after the board is set up in Phnom Penh," he said.

The two MPs are now canvassing for support among their colleagues in the Assembly, so that the two laws can be introduced together by a group of MPs. They say the laws can complement each other: for example, those who incorrectly declare their assets to the Vigilance Commission can be brought before the Board by the Commission.

"There has been a lot of support privately by MPs for the laws, but several of them are afraid to sign it. They will wait to see what their leaders say," said Kem Sokha.

Son Chhay added: "These laws will implement what many people in the government, including the two Prime Ministers, have said about wiping out corruption.

"I do not think anyone can publicly oppose the law if it is introduced in the Assembly. It will expose who is serious about fighting corruption and who is not."

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