Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Anti-corruption law to be given to NA next month

Anti-corruption law to be given to NA next month

Anti-corruption law to be given to NA next month

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Civil society groups have expressed concern, saying prior drafts were toothless and law will have little impact on graft

HENG CHIVOAN

Lawmakers at the National Assembly will receive a copy of the draft anti-corruption law next month.

WITH the National Assembly set to pass its long-awaited anti-corruption law next month, observers have questioned the likely effectiveness of the new legislation, saying it could do little to reduce Cambodia's rampant corruption.

In a press conference Sunday, government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said the draft law will be given to the new CPP-dominated National Assembly shortly after its inauguration on September 24.

But civil society groups said the draft has been difficult to obtain and they are concerned it is based on the draft submitted in 2006, which fell short of international standards.

"We have not received a new draft from the government, and we do not know of any changes to the [2006] draft law," said Sek Borisoth, director of Pact Cambodia. He said the 2006 draft was a watered-down version of earlier versions, and that its lack of whistleblower protections would hamper its effectiveness. "The fight against corruption will not be successful if the law does not help protect witnesses and whistleblowers," he said.

when we received the draft in 2007, it had no meaning and no real standards.

Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Son Chhay said the SRP had also not received a draft from the government, and assumed the law to be the same that was formulated in 2006.

"I believe [it is the same], but we have not seen it," he said. "It shouldn't be a secret, it should be a public document."

Son Chhay said the last draft lacked teeth, putting the responsibility for its enforcement into the hands of a council staffed by government officials.

"When we received the draft in 2007, it had no meaning and no real standards for fighting corruption," he said. "The government was planning to set up a Supreme Council with representatives from across the government. But if you have representatives from all sections of government, how can you deal with government corruption?"

Without amendments to the 2006 draft, he said, "corruption in Cambodia will remain the same."

However, Song Lim Neou, secretary of state at the Council of Ministers, said the draft had taken other views into account. "The law has been completed and the opinions of civil society and other stakeholders have been included in the final draft." he said.

US Embassy spokesman John Johnson said corruption cost Cambodia millions of dollars each year, and welcomed the new legislation. "We are pleased to hear that the government has announced plans to proceed with the passage of this important law," he said by email.

"We have not had recent conversations with the government on the substance of the draft law, [but] we look forward to seeing a draft of the new law and working with the government in order to pass a version that meets international standards," he said.

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