A DRAFT Anti-Corruption Law will be presented to the National Assembly during the first half of 2010, government officials said Tuesday, but critics say this month’s debate on the Kingdom’s new Penal Code does not bode well for an open hearing on the long-awaited anti-graft bill.
Cheam Yeap, a lawmaker for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, said Tuesday that the law would be put on the agenda as soon as the Kingdom’s new Penal Code – approved by the National Assembly last week – is passed by the Senate and signed by King Norodom Sihamoni.
“The Anti-Corruption Law will be adopted during the first [half] of 2010,” he said but added that he did not know when the Senate would sit to consider the code, which officials have long cited as a necessary precursor to anti-graft legislation.
The Anti-Corruption Law, which has existed in various draft forms since 1994, was established as an agreed donor-government development target in 2002, but it has drawn criticism for the constant delays in its passing.
Yim Sovann, spokesman for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, applauded the CPP’s intention to put it on the agenda next year but raised concerns that certain articles in the new Penal Code could prevent individuals from filing complaints against corrupt officials.
“The law must be implemented fully and effectively,” he said. “No corrupt officials are [now] put on trial, so we need this law as soon as possible.”
Debate prospects grim
Yim Sovann also said the recent parliamentary debates on the Penal Code – during which UN human rights officials were reportedly escorted from the National Assembly during discussion of controversial articles on defamation – showed there was little prospect of an open debate. He admitted the government had run forums for NGO and opposition members to provide input, but that – as in the debates over the code – criticism had been dismissed. “We raised many concerns made by the UN and civil society, but they were ignored,” he said, adding that forums on the Anti-Corruption Law were organised to “give a good image” for international donors.
Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said the 2010 time frame for the law was “reasonable”, but that the timing of the law’s passing was less important than its contents and implementation. “[This is] going to be one of the [country’s] most important pieces of legislation. We have to be certain that there is a mechanism to ensure it is not abused,” he said.
He also said the recent debate on the Penal Code did not inspire confidence that the anti-graft law would receive the necessary scrutiny. “The government doesn’t have a good record in open debate,” he added. But “we’re all ready to engage in the process”.