The head of Cambodia’s Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU), Om Yentieng, has apologised for suggesting that the Kingdom’s traffic police might be corrupt.
Yentieng’s about-face came yesterday at a public meeting about the new Traffic Law – which goes into effect today – attended by Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng, from whom he asked forgiveness.
The ACU director had singled out graft within the traffic police and the ministry’s identification department during a speech at an International Anti-Corruption Day event on December 9.
Responding the very next day, the Interior Ministry said Yentieng’s comments had hurt morale among its hardworking employees and that cases of corruption involving its staff were dealt with appropriately.
“In the previous five years, the ACU has respected the active, hard work of the traffic police across the country and knows clearly about the hard work they face and have to solve every day and minute,” Yentieng said, after praising Sar Kheng’s “relentless” efforts to prepare for the traffic code’s implementation.
“On the occasion of December 9, National Anti-Corruption Day, I spoke wrong words, and today I [admit] I made a mistake in using inappropriate words as was pointed out in the statement of the spokesman of the Ministry of Interior . . . on December 10.
“At this moment, I take this stage . . . to apologise to . . . Sar Kheng for using my inappropriate words, words that affect morale, and I hope and believe that, with his kind state of mind, he will forgive me for my words.”
Yentieng went on to say he was “very impressed” with the hard work of the Interior Ministry, Ministry of Public Works and Transport and National Police in strengthening the Traffic Law.
In his December 9 speech, Yentieng, who could not be reached yesterday, said that in 2016, the ACU, working with youth groups, would use an “iron brush” to clean up corruption, taking aim at informal fees charged for identification cards and illegal checkpoints set up by traffic police to extort motorists.
Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker Son Chhay, an anti-corruption campaigner, yesterday said actions spoke louder than words.
“I think he deserves to apologise to Sar Kheng when he uses language against the police in general. He ought to come up with a report, not just open his big mouth and say whatever he likes,” Chhay said.
Transparency International executive director Preap Kol characterised the apology as a “political compromise” to ensure the bodies could work together to fight corruption.
According to a December 30 release, the ACU this year checked 100 companies’ compliance with their economic land concession, received 772 complaints, 360 of which were anonymous, observed 407 public tenders, consulting on 78 of them, and was “involved” with 22 court cases.
The document, which noted 21,683 officials had declared their assets in the past two years, did not mention convictions.