FOURTEEN senior officials in the government’s new Anticorruption Unit have been awarded the same powers as judicial police as part of measures to combat graft, according to a prakas, or edict, signed by Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana this month.
“Judicial police officials of the Anticorruption Unit will have control over the entire national territory and judicial police officials will need to take an oath at the Appeal Court before fulfilling their obligations,” states the prakas, dated August 9.
Om Yentieng, the head of the ACU, could not be reached for comment yesterday. He told participants at an anti-graft symposium this week that some ACU officials would be equipped with weapons and uniforms that would allow them to take action against corruption. “We need to consider and prepare for safety, because those behind corruption crimes will also have weapons and we have to ensure that our officials will not get injured,” he said.
Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said the prakas appears to give selected officials power that is identical to judicial police, who are able to open investigations, gather evidence and question witnesses.
Sar Sambath, a permanent member of the ACU and one of the officials to be given the powers of judicial police said he had not yet taken the oath.
“I have not been invited to take the oath yet, and I don’t know when it is going to take place, but I hope that it will happen soon,” he said.
The ACU was one of two bodies created this year when the National Assembly passed the Kingdom’s long-awaited Law on Anticorruption.
But opposition lawmaker Yim Sovann, spokesman for the Sam Rainsy Party, said the ACU was unlikely to be effective because all its senior members were appointed by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party. “These individual officials are partisan,” Yim Sovann said. “Therefore, how can they take action against their own family members? I don’t believe them.”