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Anti-corruption chief defends govt record

Anti-corruption chief defends govt record

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Om Yentieng marks Anti-Corruption Day by dismissing criticism of delays in passing anti-graft law and citing progress in convictions

Photo by: Tracey Shelton

Dan, 9, participates in a celebration Tuesday commemorating Anti-Corruption Day at Wat Phnom.

CAMBODIA'S Anti-Corruption Unit chief on Tuesday defended the government's commitment to enacting anti-graft legislation during a ceremony at Wat Phnom marking this year's Anti-Corruption Day.

Om Yentieng said the formal enactment of legislation to fight corruption was conditional upon the adoption of a penal code.

"Once the penal code has been adopted, we must absolutely submit the anti-corruption law for debate quickly," he said. "Until that time, we must wait."

The Council of Ministers is currently reviewing a draft penal code, about 300 articles of which have been processed, Om Yentieng said.

He also struck out Tuesday at critics who accuse government leaders of pervasive corruption.

"Everyone says that corruption affects the economy. If there is so much corruption, why is Cambodia seeing so much economic progress? We must speak clearly about these matters," he said.

The government has made  gains in dealing with corruption complaints filed informally with the Anti-Corruption Unit, Om Yentieng, who is also president of the Human Rights Committee of the Royal Government, told attendees at the celebration.

He said 36 of 60 complaints filed in the last two years have been resolved, adding that the courts have convicted four people of corruption and sentenced them to four years in prison each.

Om Yentieng responded angrily to a question during the event about the number of corruption complaints filed.

"We have received 60 complaints," he said. "This question is not Khmer. All of you are hoping for us to fail so that you can laugh at us. But we are working for the benefit of our nation."

'Climate of impunity'

Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, did not comment on Om Yentieng's address but said corruption in Cambodia resulted in drastic losses in national revenue and a climate of impunity.

"If we let corruption remain, the country risks becoming politically unsustainable," he told the Post.

Corruption cannot be eliminated completely when it affects all national institutions, such as the courts and law enforcement, he said.

Graft in Cambodia has led to national income losses of millions of per year, Mam Sitha, president of the Cambodian Independent Anti-Corruption Committee, said in a statement, citing a 2004 study.

Tuesday's ceremony aimed to promote greater awareness and participation by the public to curb corruption and urge a more rapid adoption of international standards of justice, the statement said.

"To eliminate corruption, we all must fight to help our people live in a world of equality and justice," the statement said.

Corruption worldwide accounts for $1 trillion per year in lost revenues, according to figures from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

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