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Anti-corruption pledge fades

Anti-corruption pledge fades

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anti.jpg

An SRP supporter outside party headquarters at the start of campaigning on June 26 hands out booklets about the murder of actress Piseth Pelika. She was shot in Phnom Penh on July 6, 1999, and died in Calmette Hospital seven days later. She was reportedly having an affair with Prime Minister Hun Sen at the time, and was warned by police chief Hok Lundy that her life was in danger. Copies of the book were confiscated by the authorities earlier this year.

J

uly marked the failure of the government to meet a pledge Prime Minister Hun Sen

made at last year's donors' meeting, when he said the anti-corruption law would pass

within twelve months.

Although the draft law is now with a parliamentary commission, the start of election

campaigning means there is practically no chance of the National Assembly meeting

to debate it.

The country's progress towards an anti-corruption law has been slow. The first draft

came in 1994 from representatives of the Center for Social Development (CSD), the

National Assembly, and the government. It provided for the establishment of the National

Anti-Corruption Board, as well as a Declaration of Assets and Liabilities Act.

After years of delay, the World Bank's regional head, Ian Porter, warned last year

that if progress was not made, Cambodia would get less money at the next donors'

meeting. It was then that Hun Sen promised donors the anti-corruption legislation

would be passed by the end of June 2003.

Funcinpec member Dien Dell, who chairs the National Assembly's anti-corruption committee,

said Hun Sen had deliberately broken that promise.

"The draft law has not been passed because the government delayed," said

Dell. "They've had five years to do this, but they don't want to pass it."

He surmised the draft, which was at the Council of Ministers (CoM) until June 25,

was delayed so that it could not be passed until the next government was formed.

The draft's progress since then has been negligible. Monh Saphan, the chairman of

the NA's legislative commission, said he had not seen the draft law, although it

reportedly went to the Permanent Committee on June 27. The agenda for that meeting

was not discussed as only five Cambodian People's Party MPs and three from Funcinpec

showed up. The rest were away campaigning, he said.

When asked why the law had been delayed, Sum Manit, secretary of state at the CoM,

said that was down to the amount of discussion required to decide how to formulate

the text.

"I haven't any power to suggest or urge the National Assembly to pass the anti-corruption

law quickly before the election," he said. "It's up to the National Assembly

to decide when it will pass that law, and what it wants to add."

Opposition MP Son Chhay, who helped draft the initial bill, said the CoM last corrected

the text on May 20, but was unsure how many revisions the draft had undergone. Chhay,

a frequent government critic, protested in 1999 that the bill had been rendered ineffective

when the parliamentary committee overseeing its passage removed key provisions that

defined corruption and meted out penalties to wrongdoers.

"If the law is released without any corrections in the draft it won't be effective,

but it's better than not having one at all," he said.

Chhay also criticized the make-up of the proposed anti-corruption board. The draft

text in 1999 stipulated that it would be headed by a director selected by the King,

three members of the National Assembly, and two members from the NGO community.

But a copy of the current draft obtained by the Post specified that one member each

would be appointed by the King, the Senate, the National Assembly, the Constitutional

Council, the CPP, the Supreme Council of Magistracy, and the National Audit Authority.

Another change is that the new law stipulates that the director will be chosen by

the members of the National Assembly, something Chhay said would surely thwart anti-corruption

efforts.

CSD's head, Chea Vannath, said she was yet to see a copy of the CoM revised draft,

but expressed hope that the legislation would support all concerned parties rather

than just one.

"The law is the first to give a signal that the government is about to really

focus on curbing corruption ... but to have a law is only the beginning. Enforcement

is the real challenge," she said.

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