Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Graft may grow with trade: TI

Graft may grow with trade: TI

People transport goods across the Thai border
People transport goods across the Thai border last year. According to Transparency International, with increasing cross-border trade, opportunities for corruption will increase. Hong Menea

Graft may grow with trade: TI

A new report issued today by Transparency International calls for the establishment of an ASEAN Integrity Community (AIC) to combat corruption, warning that economic integration could otherwise deepen the graft that taints the region.

“If economic integration is not built on a strong foundation of transparency, accountability and integrity then the ASEAN community’s vision will be jeopardized,” the report says.

In an interview yesterday, TI’s regional director for Asia Pacific, Dr Srirak Plipat, said that while economic integration promises a financial boon for the region, it also carries a threat unless graft is stamped out.

“Corruption is the shadow of this economic activity that will also grow as this activity grows,” Plipat said.

According to the report – which is being released in conjunction with a meeting of ASEAN in Kuala Lumpur – massive infrastructure projects underway or planned across the region provide opportunities for funds to be siphoned off, while integrated financial systems could allow stolen cash to be more easily hidden. Such an outcome, it says, could undermine public backing for the project.

“If persistent corruption and cronyism cause the benefits of regional economic integration to flow to well-connected elites, leading to greater income inequality, political support for regional economic integration may wither,” it states.

The report also highlights the increased opportunities such integration offers to criminal groups involved in the likes of timber theft and human trafficking, as illicit cargoes are more easily concealed among the increasing numbers of goods and people moving through the region.

It also warns that, while cross-border bribery has traditionally seen firms from outside the region paying off dirty officials, “as intra-ASEAN trade and investment expands, we are likely to see an increasing number of intra-ASEAN transnational bribery cases”.

Plipat said that although there are already regional bodies focused on battling graft, they are mainly intended to provide technical support. The AIC, he said, could nurture the political will to combat corruption currently lacking in many countries.

“The corruption problem in Southeast Asia is no longer about the technical support, it’s about leadership,” said Plipat.

It’s a message echoed by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, which said it backed TI’s proposal.

“In the current situation, corruption is a constraint to development and economic prosperity,” said CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann. “We support any initiatives, any ideas that lead to fighting corruption.”

The head of Cambodia’s Anti-corruption Unit, Om Yentieng, yesterday declined to comment.

Cambodia is one of ASEAN’s most corrupt nations, according to the 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index published by TI in December. Scoring just 21 out of 100, both Cambodia and Myanmar were ranked 154 out of 174 nations globally.

Yet Plipat is keen to highlight the moves being made in both countries to support the work of TI; backing he hoped would extend to this new proposal.

“If the Cambodian government can take a leading role in supporting this, we look forward to continuing to support the Cambodian government,” he said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHHAY CHANNYDA

MOST VIEWED

  • Chinese group tours return to Cambodia starting Feb 6

    Cambodia is among 20 countries selected by Beijing for a pilot programme allowing travel agencies to provide international group tours as well as flight and hotel packages to Chinese citizens, following a three-year ban. As the days tick down until the programme kicks off on February 6,

  • Capital-Poipet express rail project making headway

    The preliminary results of a feasibility study to upgrade the Phnom Penh-Poipet railway into Cambodia’s first express railway indicate that the project would cost more than $4 billion and would take around four years to complete. The study was carried out by China Road and

  • Thai boxers to join SEA Games’ Kun Khmer event

    The Cambodian SEA Games Organising Committee (CAMSOC) – together with the Kun Khmer International Federation (KKIF) and Khmer Boxing Federation – have achieved a “great success” by including Kun Khmer in the upcoming biennial multi-sports event on its home soil for the first time, said a senior

  • Bullets to bracelets: Siem Reap man makes waste from war wearable

    Jewellery is often made from valuable gemstones like emeralds or diamonds and precious metals like gold or silver, or valueless things like animal horns. But a man in Siem Reap has approached the manufacture of delicate pieces from a different angle. His unique form of

  • Second Hungary business forum set for H2

    Cambodia has asked Hungary to provide GSP- (Generalised System of Preferences) Plus facilities for when the Kingdom sheds its least-developed country (LDC) label, as the two countries prepare to hold a second business forum in the second half (H2) of this year to expand trade

  • 61% of 2022 imports came from just 3 markets

    The three largest exporters to Cambodia – mainland China, Vietnam and Thailand – accounted for 60.94 per cent of the Kingdom’s total merchandise imports last year, at $18.245 billion, which was up 11.99 per cent over 2021, according to the General Department of Customs and Excise. Cambodia’s total imports