A N unprecedented major conference on corruption and how to stop it will be held
in Phnom Penh next month, attended by a host of high-level Cambodian and foreign
The co-Prime Ministers are expected to give a public commitment
to fighting graft within government ranks when they give keynote addresses to
Also attending will be the Minister of Finance, Keat
Chhon, and leading corruption-fighters from Hong Kong and Malaysia.
proposals-to define and outlaw corruption; set up an independent commission
against corruption; and require government employees, from top to bottom, to
publicly declare their assets-will be debated at the conference.
conference, on "Corruption and its Impacts on National Reconstruction and
Reconciliation", will be held at the Cambodiana Hotel on March 2-3.
Organized by the Perah Sihanouk Raj Academy, a recently-established
independent think-tank, it is part of an USAID-funded project to promote public
Project director Pok Than said that he was the co-Prime
Ministers' agreement to speak at the conference as a sign of their commitment to
"By coming there, they will publicly admit they are
aware of the problem.
"I believe that this could be the first commitment
by the government to do something."
He said that by displaying a
willingness to fight corruption, government leaders could go to the next ICORC
meeting of foreign donors to Cambodia in Paris next month "with heads held
Asked how genuinely-committed to deterring corruption the government was Pok
Than said: "I don't know how sincere it is, but I feel that there is no other
choice. They have to deal with this problem."
But he warned that
establishing an effective legal framework to tackle corruption would require
"You can make a weak [anti-corruption] law which will not do
anything. We have to make sure the law is strong enough and independent
Among those attending the conference-to speak on their
countries' anti-corruption measure-will be the Commissioner of Hong Kong's
Independent Commission Against Corruption, Bertrand de Speville, and the
Director of Malaysia's Anti-Corruption Agency, Lee Kwan Chiew.
Than believed that, in line with overseas experience, three laws were needed in
- To impose penalties for corruption.
- To establish a truly independent anti-corruption commission, staffed by
people of the highest integrity, to investigate and prevent opportunities for
- To require government employees-from ministers and judges to the lowest tier
of civil servants-to periodically declare their personal assets.
Pok Than said no research had been done on the extent of corruption in
Cambodia-though he believed the number of people involved was small-nor was it
"We have all heard the stories...The public knows what's
going on around here.
"You only have to look at public [ servants']
salaries and the way that some people live..."
He agreed that it would be
hard to eliminate corruption while state salaries were so low. But he believed
the government could afford to raise salaries if it recouped money lost through
corruption, imposed a better tax system and ensured all money from industries
such as logging went into public coffers.
He said the government was
drawing up its own anti-corruption laws, and individual MPs had drafted their
own, and a compromise between them was likely in the end.
BLDP MPs Kem Sokha and Son Chhay, who have prepared draft laws on the issue,
will both address the conference.
Kem Sokha told the Post that the two
MPs' laws had prompted a letter from the Council of Ministers saying the
government was drawing up its own anti-corruption measures.
government doesn't want any law submitted by MPs, it wants to draft the law
themselves...it always wants to be higher than the National Assembly," he
If the government rejected the MPs' draft laws, but failed to
produce an effective law itself, "it will mean the government doesn't want to
show corruption and...that the government itself commits corruption.
is very, very hard to make war [on corruption] because the person who is corrupt
is the person who has power. Simple government officers are corrupt because they
have the top officers behind them," Kem Sokha said.