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Watchdog praises plan for whistleblower law

Watchdog praises plan for whistleblower law

Cambodia's leading anti-corruption NGO has offered rare praise for the Anti-Corruption Unit.

On Wednesday, ACU chief Om Yentieng announced that a whistleblower protection law would soon be drafted to ensure the safety of those who report corruption.

Transparency International Cambodia – which ranks the Kingdom 160th out of 177 countries in its flagship corruption perceptions index – said yesterday that it welcomed Wednesday’s joint commitment between the ACU and the parliamentary Anti-Corruption Commission to enact such a law.

NGO advocates like TIC have long lobbied for adequate legal protections for whistleblowers.

“Whistleblowers are invaluable in exposing corruption, fraud and mismanagement. It is crucial that they are protected and their claims properly investigated so that corrupt individuals cannot hide behind a wall of silence,” TIC said in a statement.

The statement added that the group “stands ready” to help the government and parliament draft a law that meets international standards.

Earlier this year, ACU czar Yentieng slammed TIC after it released an ambitious National Integrity System Assessment that found the Kingdom’s institutions, including the ACU, severely wanting.

“How can we be shaking hands with each other with one hand, while fighting each other with the other?” Yentieng said at the time, referring to a memorandum of understanding inked by the ACU and TI.

ACU deputy chief Chhay Savuth said yesterday that the law’s drafting had yet to begin.

He added that the decision to create such a law had not been made due to NGO pressure.

“It’s to protect witnesses and sources. If we don’t have laws to protect witnesses, there will be no one to come as our witness in corruption cases.”

Phay Siphan, spokesman at the Council of Ministers, which will have to approve any ACU-drafted law before it is sent to parliament, said he was in favour of such a law.

But Siphan added the ACU must also “do the utmost to protect the dignity and honour” of those accused of corruption.

“They are innocent until you prove [them guilty].”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHHAY CHANNYDA

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