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Website to publish assets of senior government officials

THE government’s Anticorruption Unit plans to set up a website to publicise the asset declarations of government officials and other materials related to the Kingdom's anti-graft strategy, the body's chairman said yesterday.

Speaking on the sidelines of a symposium hosted in part by anti-graft group Transparency International, ACU head Om Yentieng said the website would help to publicise the government’s fight against corruption.

“We need to find a way to release information to the public, and our website is a bridge to connect with the public and answer questions,” Om Yentieng said. He said he could not afford to wait for donors to help prepare the website, and would instead start one “by myself”.

“I will be spending only a few hundred dollars,” Om Yentieng said. “I am not going to die if I lose support from donors, but I will die if my people are not confident in my work.”

Ran Liao, Tranparency International’s senior programme coordinator for East and Southeast Asia, called the website proposal “encouraging”, though he said that asset declarations needed to analysed to ensure their accuracy.

“In many countries, as a first step, they have an act which encourages government officials to declare their assets and other things, but there’s no monitoring system included,” Liao said.

Transparency International, he said, plans to set up an office in Phnom Penh “soon” to help work more on this issue.

Asset declarations will be compulsory for senior officials under the new Law on Anticorruption, and Om Yentieng said yesterday that the ACU would have the power to seize assets that were not accounted for.

“If you have two houses in your asset declaration during your two-year term, and in the next term you have three or four houses, you will need to explain the financial sources,” he said.

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay said he doubted that this provision would be judiciously enforced by anti-graft officials.

“We just laughed our heads off when we saw the article on the declaration of assets,” he said. “Since these people have been appointed by the Prime Minister, it will be easy for them to search for their opponents.”

Son Chhay allowed, however, that the declaration requirement could be effective if government officials give a full and public accounting of their assets. “We’ve heard so much about how much they earn,” he said. “Everybody really wants to know.”



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