The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Mission Team to Cambodia convened with representatives from the Ministry of Justice on October 25, aiming to enhance their comprehension of the country’s initiatives in bolstering the rule of law, especially its anti-corruption strategies.

Ministry secretary of state Chin Malin represented minister Koeut Rith during the discussions with the IMF’s Article IV Consultation team for Cambodia.

Malin said the group sought a deeper understanding of how the government promotes its rule of law to benefit all relevant institutions, noting that the IMF was keen to learn about the legal mechanisms and the judiciary’s role in the matter.

He told the IMF about recent legal and justice system reforms, such as the anti-corruption law and guidelines for police enforcement. He said this includes collaboration with the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) and efforts to enhance the discipline and ethics of court officials, with a particular focus on inspections.

“We’ve made it clear to the IMF that we maintain a rigorous approach in championing the rule of law and combating corruption. Robust inspection measures are in place to ensure that our officials act ethically, professionally and in adherence to legal principles and procedures,” he stated.

During the assembly, four primary topics were discussed: the Pentagonal Strategy’s progress towards enhancing the rule of law; ongoing work on a draft law safeguarding individual reporters and witnesses; handling contracts, business disputes and property rights protection; and the anti-corruption law.

Pech Pisey, executive director of Transparency International (TI) Cambodia, shared his concerns over the diminishing rule of law indicators globally. He pointed out that approximately six billion people currently reside in regions with fragile rule of law frameworks, and the judiciary systems in these areas are often unstable.

He noted that the Asia-Pacific region, including Cambodia, has seen a steep decline as well.

Pisey urged the government to check rule of law indicators to spur investment growth and ensure societal judicial integrity.

“There are three focal areas. Firstly, Cambodia must enhance governance and maintain a balance among the executive, legislative and judicial branches. Secondly, the nation must combat systemic corruption – whether it’s partisanship, nepotism, minor or major – to fortify public services. Lastly, vigilance is required against macroeconomic, industrial and other forms of corruption that could undermine the national economy,” he explained.

He recommended the government bolster priority sectors, like tourism, agriculture and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as he believes exploring financial or administrative aid could potentially rejuvenate the economy.