Officials have flatly rejected Transparency International’s (TI) 2022 Corruption Perception Index (CPI), which ranked Cambodia 150th out of 180 countries. The Kingdom was ranked 157th the previous year.

In Southeast Asia, only Myanmar ranked lower. In the Asia-Pacific region, Cambodia is only ahead of Myanmar and North Korea on the index.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan dismissed TI rankings, saying its research and data collection methods are inconsistent with international principles and does not reflect scientific facts about Cambodia.

“The report does not clearly state their measures of scientific evaluation, only quantitative evaluation. This means its findings are not scientific and, in our assessment, are merely the opinion of one organisation,” he added.

Soy Chanvichet, a spokesman for the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU), said the body has never recognised TI reports as they are “inconsistent” with international principles and “completely contrary” to the facts.

“Having said that, the ACU always pays close attention to any recommendations that might increase the efficiency of its work in relation to the fight against corruption in Cambodia,” he said.

“The government has always focused on reform, and made it the centre of its political platform. We can all see the day-to-day development progress in our society and I think it is clear that they are down to the good governance brought about by the government’s reform policies,” he added.

Chanvichet said the government has paid particular attention to the anti-corruption work that has already been carried out and has plans to make Cambodia a clean society.

Pech Pisey, executive director of TI Cambodia, praised the government for its efforts to gradually reduce small-scale corruption in recent years, noting that the Kingdom took many measures including public financial management reform, one-window service offices and fiscal management.

Transparency International (TI) Cambodia director Pech Pisey speaks at a workshop last year. TI CAMBODIA

“We believe that the reform of public financial management must go hand in hand with the reform of democracy and the rule of law. Without it, financial management reform will be ineffective and unsustainable due to a lack of the oversight and accountability that is needed to ensure that public funds are used responsibly and transparently,” he said.

Rights group ADHOC spokesman Soeng Sen Karuna suggested that the government take stock of the index.

“I think the government should look more closely at the report’s findings. Even if they disagree with it, they should examine some of what is in it. It is possible that when a government institution conducts similar research, it only ever discovers positive stories and overlooks some facts,” he explained.

He said the government should establish an independent commission that has the power to investigate allegations of corruption and that can deal with the perpetrators in a transparent manner, regardless of whether the wrongdoers are powerful or well-connected.

“If the government is really willing to solve the issue of corruption, Cambodia’s socio-economic development will accelerate,” he said.

The 2022 CPI included six recommendations. It called on the government to open up freedom of expression, expedite the adoption of draft laws, improve access to information, improve anti-corruption laws, strengthen the judiciary and the justice system and, in particular, improve the freedoms of institutions and individuals.

The government should also take measures to crack down on large-scale corruption, it concluded.