News / Asia

Cambodia Passes First Law to Combat Graft

Son Chhay, a legislator with the opposition Sam Rainsy Party
Son Chhay, a legislator with the opposition Sam Rainsy Party
Robert Carmichael

Cambodia's parliament has passed the country's first law to combat corruption, but critics say it is flawed, and could entrench rather than end corruption.

After 15 years of trying, Cambodia now has a law against corruption, which is a scourge in this impoverished nation.

Parliament passed the legislation on Thursday. Among other things, it imposes prison sentences of up to 15 years on officials convicted of taking bribes. It also requires politicians, military personnel, police officers, judges, and civil servants to disclose their wealth to a new anti-corruption body. Leaders of civic action groups also must report their wealth.

The government calls the new law an important tool in fighting corruption.

But many opposition politicians and civic activists are critical.

Yong Kim Eng is from the Coalition for Integrity and Social Accountability, a collection of organizations fighting graft.

He says that since those serving on the anti-corruption body will be appointed by the ruling party and will report to the prime minister, there is the risk of political interference.

"Also we have questioned a lot about that as well - about independence, about what it will be accountable for. We want to have enough independence that this body can take action, can reduce the corruption in Cambodia," he said.

Son Chhay, a legislator with the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, fears the law will be misused.

"Because the prime minister and the deputy minister of the Council of Ministers will have full control over who can be prosecuted. The target will be the opposition and civil society, or the group of businesses who are not willing to support the government, who are critical of the government. So they will be able to find something there to prosecute them," he said.

Critics complain the government ignored requests for the public to have a say in drafting the new law. Son Chhay says that among the changes the ruling party refused to consider was making financial disclosures public.

A government spokesman responded to the criticism by saying that the opposition will have the opportunity to propose amendments in the future, as with any law.  

Corruption is a serious problem here. Last year, the U.S. ambassador to Cambodia said that $500 million is lost to graft each year, a comment that angered Phnom Penh. And the international anti-corruption group Transparency International ranks Cambodia as one of the world's most corrupt countries.

On Friday the U.S. Embassy welcomed the passage of the law and expressed hope that rules to implement it will "clarify and enhance" its aim of combating corruption in accordance with international standards.

You May Like

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs