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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - NGOs ready a slew of graft complaints

NGOs ready a slew of graft complaints

THE Kingdom’s newly formed Anticorruption Unit potentially faces a busy start, as two local organisations are preparing to file more than 50 corruption complaints to the body this month.

A group of 14 ACU officials were sworn in Tuesday during a ceremony at the Appeal Court.

During the ceremony, the officials took an oath stating that they were willing to face death by lightning strikes and car accidents, and suffer other grisly fates if they failed to faithfully discharge their duties.

Local NGO representatives said yesterday that they had filed or were preparing to file complaints ranging from allegations of widespread illegal logging to irregularities in the collection of traffic fines.

I don’t have any concern. If I work to serve the national interest, I will die with closed eyes.

Chea Hean, director of the National Resource and Wildlife Preservation Organisation, a national watchdog, said he lodged a complaint on Monday accusing 241 officials of involvement in the illegal timber trade in Kampong Speu province’s Oral district.
“I have the documents,” he said. “The perpetrators have confessed in front of me, and I have recorded that they have paid some money to the officials stationed in the region.”

Those in his sights, Chea Hean said, include Oral district forestry officials, park rangers, district governor Chem Sarim and district police chief Dos Sim. He said he also plans to file a complaint alleging similar operations in Koh Kong province later this month.

“I don’t have any concern. If I work to serve the national interest, I will die with closed eyes,” Chea Hean said. “I dare to face to all kinds of danger.”
Chem Sarim and Dos Sim could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Also yesterday, a local representative of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, a regional organisation, said he had received more than 50 complaints in 10 provinces related to the alleged levying of illegal fines by traffic police.

San Chey, the organisation’s Cambodia-based network fellow, said he would forward them on to the ACU next week.

San Chey said many of the complaints accused traffic police of levying fines that were greater than those prescribed in the Land Traffic Law.

“Based on the swearing-in of the 14 [ACU] officials I think that they can find justice for the people,” San Chey said. “It is time to eliminate corruption in Cambodia.”

ACU chairman Om Yentieng said he welcomed all complaints lodged to the body, but could not guarantee that every complaint filed would be pursued by the body.

“All complaints will be received and looked at,” he said. “We do not deny anyone’s complaint.... We must have a look because they have trusted us enough to lodge a complaint with us.”

Om Yentieng said that the ACU would choose whether or not to investigate particular complaints based on their merit.

Chan Soveth, a senior investigator for local human rights group Adhoc, said that as long as ACU officials are members of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party it would be impossible to eliminate corruption in the Kingdom. “ACU officials must not be controlled by the party. [They] must be independent, neutral. But those officials have not announced their withdrawal from the party,” Chan Soveth said.

Chheng Sophoan, 23
Banking student
“I think that it is hopeless because corruption is a very big problem. We must cooperate. We must especially take action at the top first. If the leaders are not corrupt, the lower officials will also not be corrupt. I think only about 30 percent of corruption can be eliminated successfully because the rule of law in Cambodia is not as strong as in other countries.”
Vong Vanna, 22
Student of Khmer literature
“I think that they created this law and it can be effective. Cambodia has a lot of corruption, so sometimes the law might be effective, but corruption cannot be totally eliminated. I have only a 75 percent belief this will work because the corruption takes place in secret.”
Pich Chea, 45,
Tuk-tuk driver
“If leaders have the will to eliminate corruption they can do it, but if they don’t have the will, they won’t be able to. For example, traffic police often levy fines over the legal limits of the traffic law. This is one example of corruption.”

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