Transparency International (TI) released their Global Corruption Barometer yesterday, revealing that in recent years, Cambodian citizens’ personal experience with corruption has gone down, while their perception of its prevalence has gone up.
The GCB report is comprised of responses from 1,003 Cambodians, differing from last month’s Corruption Perception Index, which drew on expert opinions in ranking Cambodia the ASEAN country perceived as the most corrupt.
The percentage of respondents who believed corruption has decreased dropped significantly compared to 2011 and 2013 reports, as did the percentage of those who believed the government was doing a good job combating corruption.
In another display of pessimism, 73 percent said an individual can make a difference in combating corruption, a drop from 82 percent in 2011 and 80 percent in 2013.
Despite these negative perceptions, reported instances of bribery actually dropped. In 2011, 84 percent said they had paid a bribe in the past year, compared to 57 percent in 2013 and just 40 percent in 2016.
TI Cambodia director Preap Kol attributed this seeming contradiction to a growing awareness of the systemic nature of the problem.
“Small corruption, petty corruption has dramatically decreased,” he said in his presentation, asserting that “grand corruption” and “government abuse of power” has remained entrenched.
“The people know much better what actually constitutes corruption,” Kol told The Post after the presentation.
“Police officials involved in protecting companies, government abuse of land rights are examples of grand corruption,” he said.
But government spokesman Phay Siphan said Kol’s criticism in the face of apparent improvements was evidence of a “double standard”.
“He makes these reports to keep his job… He doesn’t have to eradicate corruption, he just makes noise and places blame while the government works so hard,” he said.
Yim Sovann, spokesman for the CNRP, said TI’s findings were accurate. “The report reflects the reality in Cambodian society,” he said, claiming systemic corruption more than petty bribery is what ultimately creates widespread poverty.
Sovann vowed to amend the Anti-Corruption Law to make it more effective and reform the country’s oft-criticised judiciary should his party take power.
Respondents ranked the judiciary the most corrupt institution in Cambodia for the third time running, with the police and government officials retaining their spots in second and third, respectively.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak took offence at the report’s findings that 52 percent of those surveyed thought the police were corrupt.
Saying the report was “unacceptable” and “groundless”, Sopheak accused TI of “spreading untrue information among the media and the people”.
He also said TI had “provoked the anger of all police officers”, threatening to sue the organisation, and in a seemingly growing CPP trend, invoked US President Donald Trump“Maybe we will not provide them entrance visas, like Trump,” he said laughing.
Kol, meanwhile, said the study merely reported Cambodians’ responses.
“That’s how the people responded… We don’t want to be sued by the government, but I cannot change the report. It’s the experience of the Cambodian people.”