GOVERNMENT officials caught engaging in corrupt practices will be swiftly prosecuted under the Kingdom’s new Anticorruption Law, Prime Minister Hun Sen vowed Thursday.
Speaking at a graduation ceremony for students from the Royal School of Administration, the premier urged officials to stamp out corruption in all its forms, and called institutional graft “a dangerous disease”.
“I am optimistic that we still have the capacity to fight against this dangerous disease,” Hun Sen said. “Corruption will damage our institutions.”
But the premier also defended the Kingdom’s police, military and government institutions, saying that most officials do not engage in corruption.
“People who commit corruption, they do it secretly. But be aware that other people working with you will find some way to know about it,” he said.
Cambodia is regarded as one of the most corrupt nations in the region, according to Transparency International, which ranked the Kingdom 158th out of 180 countries in its 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index.
Observers have questioned whether the Anticorruption Law, passed earlier this year, will give officials enough tools to effectively and thoroughly combat graft.
Yong Kim Eng, president of the People’s Centre for Development and Peace, said he is concerned the new law lacks safeguards to protect whistle-blowers. Particularly troubling, he said, is an article outlining punishments of up to six months in jail or 10 million riels (US$2,386) in fines for complaints that lead to “useless inquiry”.
“This makes it a problem for the public to report about corrupt people,” Yong Kim Eng said.
It also remains to be seen whether the new Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) will be able to ensure witness confidentiality, he said, or whether the unit will be sufficiently independent – both politically and financially, since it falls under the auspices of the Council of Ministers – to carry out investigations.
After the law was passed in March, ACU officials acknowledged that extensive training would be required for those tasked with fighting graft.
Deputy Director Chhay Savuth said Thursday that the body was still in the process of “forming an internal structure”.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY IRWIN LOY