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Tycoons quit before declaring assets

Ten tycoons have asked permission to resign their government posts following the introduction of new rules requiring senior officials to disclose their assets to anti-graft authorities, an official said on Tuesday.

Sieng Borath, deputy president of the Anticorruption Unit, said that the businessmen – which included senators, members of parliament and advisors to senior officials – tendered their resignations when asset declarations became mandatory at the start of this month.

He did not name names, and emphasised that those reportedly involved were not resigning in an attempt to cover up ill-gotten gains, but were instead afraid they might accidentally leave some of their many assets off the declaration form.

“An oknha [tycoon], he has his legitimate job. There is nothing involved with corruption, but he finds it difficult because of his many assets,” Sieng Borath said in a speech on asset declarations at the Ministry of Information on Tuesday.

“The resignation doesn’t mean that he is corrupt, but that he finds it difficult to include those assets, that he might forget.”

Under the Kingdom’s new Law on Anticorruption, as many as 100,000 senior government officials will be required to declare their assets to the ACU by the end of next month.

When contacted on Tuesday, two tycoons holding government posts said they would not resign in the face of the new regulations.

“What the state requires us to do, we must do that. If we resign, it means that we have a problem,” said Chea Chamroeun, an oknha and parliamentarian from the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

Yin Sovanny, an adviser to Senate President Chea Sim, agreed resignations could be construed as a sign of guilt.

“For me, there is no problem. It is not necessary to resign because we have not done anything [illegal],” he said.

Opposition Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann said tycoons were free to resign, but that the timing raised the question of whether they were trying to conceal ill-gotten gains.

“In the country that has the rule of law, even if they have big business and have any [government] posts, if they have honest business they will not be scared of declaring assets,” he said.

“We do not accuse any okhna, but in [Cambodia] most oknhas have illegal business.”

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