The US report on corruption in Cambodia looks pretty detailed, but not many Cambodians
dare to tell more specific examples about the issue. However, a Khmer folk tale below
may explain a similar case that may happen in Cambodia now.
Once upon a time, there was a rich woman named Chandear who built her fortune by
helping rich people to win lawsuits with poor people.
The reason wealthy people came to her for help was because she knew all judges and
officials in the government.
After solving a case, Chandear would be given tens of thousands of Kahapanaks (ancient
currency as opposed to US dollars), which she then bribed all the high-ranking officials
who were her accomplices and treated them to a feast of good wine and food served
by pretty maidens she had hired. Chandear used this trick to neutralize justice and
Chandear had committed such corruptions for many years. The country's affairs became
so confusing that right turned to be wrong and vice versa, because all the wrongdoers
and those who wished to have good jobs and positions at various ministries often
came to her for help.
Therefore, the people who had done right turned to be wrong and those who had done
wrong turned to be right. The guilty people turned to be declared innocent and the
innocent turned to be declared guilty. Those who were not qualified got good jobs
and positions while those who were qualified remained unemployed.
Poor people became so upset with what happened in the society that they decided to
seek a royal audience with the Bodhisattva, who was the king at that time.
The king then assigned some spies to look into the matter, but they too were fooled
by Chandear and could not find the truth for the king.
Thus, the king decided to have his head and moustache shaved and disguised himself
as a prisoner. He then went to ask Chandear for help.
The king told Chamdear that he was a son of a wealthy family in a province who had
murdered someone. He said he would give her as much money as she wanted. Chandear
The king went back to the palace. In the morning, Chandear invited all the dignitaries
who were her accomplices at different ministries for a feast.
Those high-ranking officials were very pleased at seeing her as they clearly knew
that they would get more money from her.
At dusk, the king disguised himself as the prisoner, carrying twenty thousand Kahapanaks
to give to Chandear. A while later, all the corrupt officials arrived. Then, the
pretty maidens brought wine and food for each official according to their ranks.
After the feast, Chandear told the prisoner to salute and offer a wreath of flowers
to each official and to give the different amount of money according to their ranks.
The king remembered the faces of those officials very well as he gave flowers and
money to them. After the feast had finished, the prisoner in disguise said goodbye
to Chandear and went back to the palace.
The next morning, the king ordered those dishonest officials to come to see him in
the palace. He also made up himself as the prisoner, but he only wore turban and
fake moustache and covered himself with woolen cloth. After all the officials had
gathered, the king removed his turban, woolen cloth and moustache. It was then those
corrupt officials knew that the prisoner was the king.
The king sent some soldiers to get Chandear. Then he asked her to identify the officials
who had received bribes from the prisoner.
Both Chandear and those officials could not have any excuses and they were therefore
willing to accept due punishments.
The king made an order to confiscate all the properties and houses of those corrupt
officials. Then, he made another order to have them tied and paraded in the capital
and make them confess loudly to the public for three days before deporting them out
of the country. After that, the king appointed the new officials to replace them.
This is the end of the folk tale. I'm afraid to say whether Cambodia has the kind
of corrupt officials in this story. But, at least we do have a similar king who cares
about our suffering and can help ease our grievances.
Moeun Chhean Nariddh - Phnom Penh