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NGOs demand that government pass anti-corruption law

NGOs demand that government pass anti-corruption law

But a CPP spokesman says even though the law is being worked on, a finalisation date is ‘unclear’ due to a number of obstacles

CIVIL society groups on Wednesday called on the government and the National Assembly to speed up passage of the draft Anti-corruption Law, whose progress was described by anti-corruption campaigner Sek Borisoth as the slowest-moving legislation he has seen.

Sek Borisoth, the program director of anti-corruption NGO PACT, said corruption was a pervasive problem, and politicians had first discussed the need for an anti-corruption law in 1994. The initial draft Anti-corruption Law came out in 2003 but remains to be adopted by the National Assembly.

"We continue to insist that the law on anti-corruption be finalised and approved soon," he said at a press conference on May 20 marking the first anniversary of a campaign that collected more than 1 million thumbprints and signatures demanding the law's passage.

"We are upset that we have seen no progress whatsoever in the year since we handed over the petition given by eligible Cambodian voters to representatives of the National Assembly to confirm their willingness and demand for the passage of the law on anti-corruption."

Sek Borisoth said the million-thumbprint campaign by the Coalition of Civil Society Organisations Against Corruption took place between December 2007 and April 2008. Staff from 11 of the 50 coalition members met people in 19 provinces and cities nationwide.

Hang Puthea, the executive director of coalition member Nicfec, an election monitoring group, said corruption could easily be seen in public and gave the example of traffic officers openly taking bribes.

Cheam Yeap, a lawmaker from the ruling Cambodian People's Party, said parliament had not yet received the draft law from the Council of Ministers because it was still being worked on.

Cheam Yeap said progress was slow because those involved were having trouble coming up with a suitable definition of the term "corruption". He also blamed difficulties in finding an independent and neutral person to chair the anti-corruption national council, which the law would create.

Thirdly, he said that provisions in the draft Anti-corruption Law that give the national council greater powers than prosecutors were unconstitutional. Finally, there was disagreement about the provision for a register of the assets of government officials.

"We need a law suitable to Cambodia's current development situation and one that is up to international standards," Cheam Yeap said, adding that he would urge Deputy Prime Minister Sok An at the Council of Ministers to speed up progress. And he pledged to take on board comments from civil society and rapidly approve the draft law once it was handed to the National Assembly.

But, he said, it was unclear when the draft law would be completed, and in any event, that could not happen until the Criminal Code was finished since the latter law would contain the punishments for corruption. The date for finalising that, he said, was also unclear.

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