A prominent anti-corruption activist yesterday urged the government to properly address corruption in the Kingdom.
On Tuesday, Transparency International ranked the Kingdom 161 out of 180 countries surveyed in its annual Corruption Perception Index.
The CPI report also noted Cambodia’s democracy points dropped significantly from 19 out of 100 in 2017 to only 12 out of 100 last year.
In a Cross-Talk discussion with Khmer Times, TI Cambodia executive director Preap Kol said large-scale corruption remains at the same scale, or even increased in some aspects.
“Large-scale corruption remains a solemn concern that the government should take serious action to solve,” Mr Kol said. “Grand corruption took place in illegal logging, natural resources management and during the tender process of major development projects.”
He noted political intimidation, suppression of political expression and restrictions on the freedom to assemble have placed Cambodia’s democracy under threat.
“In 2017 and 2018, political corruption emerged and we noticed that during elections, political parties spend large amounts of money to get votes,” Mr Kol said, adding that large-scale and political corruption will continue to be a threat to social justice and development.
However, Mr Kol said petty corruption has decreased in the Kingdom, especially in the sectors of revenue collection and public service.
“Corrupt people changed their behaviours. Before we saw that they were openly corrupted,” he said. “I noticed local authorities are more aware of the law when it comes to offering public services.”
Mr Kol said Cambodia’s Anti-Corruption Laws are in line with international standards, but added that they have been poorly enforced and public officials continue to engage in corrupt practices with impunity.
“Our laws are actually good and the best if we compare them with those of another country,” he said. “I would say 90 percent is good, the rest just needs reform.”
San Chey, executive director of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, said he agrees that Cambodia has had progress when it comes to petty corruption.
However, Mr Chey said tackling large-scale corruption is a tougher matter to crack.
“The ACU had been strengthening its reform programmes and arrested corrupt public officers, which was a good move in order to cast fear among other corrupt officials,” he said. “However, it failed to handle large-scale corruption because it involves powerful people.”
ACU president Om Yentieng could not be reached for comment yesterday.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan yesterday dismissed TI’s Corruption Perception Index and said it was motivated by the dissolution of the Cambodia National Rescue Party in 2017.
“We need to know that the CNRP was dissolved because the party and its leaders violated the law,” Mr Eysan said. “I think TI’s report is clearly politically motivated.”
He noted that anti-corruption observers should instead look into the positive results of the Kingdom’s efforts to discourage corruption.