Thursday, May 13, 2010

Corruption: The situation in Cambodia

By SON Chhay
Member of Parliament
(For TRP meeting in Rome May 26-30, 2010)

Abstract: Corruption undermines the legitimacy of political institutions and Cambodia is a clear example where this has occurred. Particularly prior to 1993, as a result of its corrupt policies the government was less able to rely on the cooperation and the support of the public. This led the government to use force and coercive tactics to maintain order. The resulting violence and political instability hindered political development; the consequences of which were clearly visible today in the malaise afflicting Cambodian society and the failed economics of the country.

After the democratic elections were held under the mandate of United Nation in 1993 in Cambodia, it was clear that there was going to be a great deal of work necessary if the objectives agreed on were going to be achieved. It was, in particular, an important time for the international community to work seriously together to help put in place a governing system based on democratic principles and where the issues with corruption and weak institutions, such as the parliament, the justice system and so forth, would be addressed.

After seventeen years of discussion and politically motivated procrastination from the time when the first draft of the anti-corruption law was proposed by myself, with the support of some colleague’s members of Parliament in 1994, Cambodia’s Parliament under domination of the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) finally passed their own version of the anti-corruption law on Thursday March 11, 2010. Defying many national and international voices demanding an open consultation and debate on the draft, the National Assembly voted hastily in favour of this bill, which was drafted in secret. The manner in which the ruling party drafted and pushed the bill through the parliament now raises legitimate concerns regarding how it will be used. But also the very drafting of the anti-corruption law gives enough reason to voice concern. The new anti corruption law has produced an instrument which is weak and dangerous simultaneously: Weak as an instrument to fight against corruption and provide for a predictable and consistent rule of law; and dangerous, as a political tool which can serve the narcissistic individual interests of those who concentrate power in their hands.

The damage caused by corruption in Cambodia has been immense. According to a US 2004 AID study, corruption costs Cambodia between US $300 million and $500 million in revenue every year. On the other hand a survey by the Economic Institute of Cambodia of 2005 made clear, that the private sector paid bribes to public officials in 2005 amounting to US $330 million, an amount which was “2.5 times higher than that of official payment” and “represented also about 50 percent of the total government budget revenue in 2005.”

The Cambodian people themselves are absolutely aware of the situation and demanded action as also did the international donors themselves. In May 2006, a petition of over 1 million Cambodian citizens was presented to the National Assembly calling on the assembly to urgently enact the anti-corruption law. According to Transparency International, 72 percent of the Cambodians reported in 2007 paying a bribe to obtain a public service position with government which made the situation worst in the sense that it affected the whole Asia-Pacific region. Yet to-date there have been few, if any, suspected state official punished over corruption allegations.

It was into this turmoil that the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) felt it had to speak out and express its serious concern about the manner in which the recent anti-corruption bill was drafted. Like a number of numerous other examples, the law making procedure in Cambodia does not meet even the minimum expectations of what would be considered acceptable parliamentarian work standards. Five days ahead of the debate on the new anti-corruption bill, the SRP Parliamentarians received a fundamentally changed, new draft, the contents of which remained a closely guarded secret. In the final debate all proposals of the opposition were simply ignored. The lack of adherence to strict protocol procedures meant that not only elected representatives of the people of Cambodia had been, in effect, excluded from the law–making process, but also the public debate.

In fact for the last fifteen years, under the new so-called “democratic” constitution, the political situation has deteriorated. The same leaders who have been governing Cambodia for nearly two decades are the same people who have made the country so corrupt by using their position and power to create wealth not to help benefit Cambodia but purely for personal self-gain and their family’s own self-interest. Consequently this has resulted in much suffering for the poor struggling Cambodian people through land grabbing (mostly targeting the indigenous people and farmers), illegal logging, underpayment of government workers such as teachers. In fact, so bad did it become that the corrupt ruling government started to view the personal charisma of specific opposition politicians and their clear ability to meet the democratic demands of the people for change, as a threat to their leadership! Thus key politicians have been thrown out from government and from the National Assembly and threats were imposed on other Members of Parliament. A complete u-turn was made and the type of enthusiastic achievement witnessed in the early first years has now totally fallen away and there remains only the old well-oiled and rigid "corrupt" system that Cambodians unfortunately know too well.

The political environment now began to turn extremely bitter. With the backing of their leaders, the authorities have been working in overdrive to protect their corrupt interests. Officials from the highest level down have used their party and political status to conduct their business. As a result, the much needed state apparatus, including administrative infrastructure, has not emerged and Cambodia continues to struggle to function with no proper institutions. Instead of rule and procedures in place, personal client networks were expanded and took over the running of the State. The principle areas affected are forestry, mining and investment.

For Cambodia however it has resulted in a crisis situation. It means that a country which is not at all well-endowed with material resources must bear the economic burden of an inflated and corrupt public sector. A major consequence of this and which is perhaps at the very core of the corruption issue as noted by the World Bank (World Bank Staff Working Paper No. 580) is a serious institutional instability in the public sector. At the level of formal organisation this manifests itself in ambiguous lines of authority, unclear and inefficient government procedures and poorly paid corruptible public servants who are not acting in the people’s interests.

In spite of Cambodia having conducted several elections on its own after the United Nations mandated elections in 1993, elections have not been free or fair; the power of corruption and abuse of power continues to dominate over the will of the people. Many political positions are still being tabled so that Party favourites are given the better positions and, as previously mentioned, this has created a large number of military, police and civil servants positions all catering to serve these same politicians and placing a further burden on the country’s budget. This situation will not change without first a change in government. A new government must commit to what has not been achieved in the pervious years of lost opportunity. This includes the need to develop a strong and non-politicised judiciary and adequate legislation to protect the rights of the people. Without a doubt one of the most meaningful measures of progress is not simply the awareness of human rights but that institutions are able to exercise an effective mandate under which to protect people’s human rights. The other important consideration is to ensure, through legislation, that the government and its members are not mismanaging funds which have been set aside to develop the country for the benefit of the Cambodian people.

In general, Cambodia’s politicians have a tendency to subscribe to short-term profit-making schemes. There is no transparent concrete targets for economic growth not is there in place any internal monitoring and reporting regime to help measure progress. Cambodia is very susceptible to market fluctuations relying as it does on an economy that is predominately steeped in agriculture. Of this a significant proportion is made up of peasant farmers working to production for subsistence earnings. Therefore in view of this, the State apparatus (the government itself), becomes the main vehicle of economic advancement and capital accumulation. No doubt, Cambodia needs to open its doors to outside agencies but there are those politicians who still choose to abuse their special powers and privileges. As a result development projects proceed without any environment impact assessment and there are many illicit commercial activities. In fact, the timber trade, land and mining concessions are the most lucrative and involve both illegal logging and the destruction of the environment.

Cambodia needs sustainable development, not development for corruption, which is rapidly destroying the natural resources of the country leaving it forever struggling and underdeveloped and becoming more and more indebted to international financial institutions. To make matters worse there is growing concern in the country about the role that the International Financial Institutions are playing in promoting loans to a corrupt country which they know are not benefiting the country and which have not been, in some cases, constitutionally endorsed by the Parliament. It is interesting to note here that while opposition parties such as the Sam Rainsy Party, are facing immensely difficult challenges to rid the system of its corruptible elements they are being jeopardized by these very international institutions that claim to be promoting legitimacy but, in effect, are themselves subverting the rule of law in Cambodia by not lending in accordance to the statutes which have been drawn-up with the specific purpose of preventing corruption, embezzlement and project mismanagement!

It is very pitiful that in this country the people still do not have access to basic needs such as clean water, education and health. The people’s needs are still peripheral to the power struggle and corruption of Cambodian politics. I cannot help but see the contrast in Cambodian politics with those of developed societies where a consensus has emerged between the various parties that the defeated parties will relinquish control of the state apparatus and how so often politicians are proving to their electorate that they are fit persons to govern or, in other words, are "non-corruptible"! Cambodian people also need to feel confident that their leaders are seriously working to improve their situation and are not there simply to advance their own gains.

It is obvious that Cambodian politics needs to change. Historically Cambodia’s political attitudes and practices are not amenable to rapid change. Yet there have been some surprising developments. In the past, I have sent a letter to both the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank as a Member of the Cambodian Parliament, encouraging International Financial Institutions to increase their involvement in ensuring that loans were being used for the purpose for which they were intended. I am hoping for a positive response. The World banks’ lending has been viewed as a source of contention by other countries in the region as well but in spite of these frustrations we continue to try to work together and use the valuable work of organisations such as Transparency International to co-host meetings and support opposition parties, such as mine, to progress the need to curb corruption and ensure that governments such as Cambodia are held accountable and that real reform, and not the recent example using the anti-corruption legislation, can occur

In summary: It has been a nearly 2 decades since the first elections in 1993 and still Cambodia has achieved very little. There is a growing popular awareness in Cambodia today that direct action can lead to political change yet it is clear that for political change to be meaningful and sustainable a simple change in government is not enough. Cambodia needs to change a whole system of governance that has been dictated to-date by the politics of corruption. However, if this is to successfully occur that the international community needs to also take responsibility. For example by ensuring that aid and loans are first constitutionally endorsed and second are made accountable, that is, with the purpose of benefiting the people of Cambodia and not usurped by corrupt government members.


Anonymous said...

As long as Ah kvak hoon xen is alive and traitor CPP is still in power Cambodia and Cambodians will never have the opportunity to improve. Corruption kills the nation!

Cambodian people in Cambodia are fucking stupid and coward. They rather live on their bended knees under ah kvak regimes. Not one dare to stand up kill him. But all rather cowardly die under him. Disgraceful! I am glad I don't live in that pathetic country.

Anonymous said...

continue to demand reforms! there are more to cambodia than some corrupted people!

Anonymous said...

Democratic Kampuchea Pol Pot Khmer Rouge Regime

Pol Pot
Nuon Chea
Ieng Sary
Ta Mok
Khieu Samphan
Son Sen
Ieng Thearith
Kaing Kek Iev
Hun Sen
Chea Sim
Heng Samrin
Hor Namhong
Keat Chhon
Ouk Bunchhoeun
Sim Ka...

Mass Murder
Crimes Against Humanity
Force Labour
Overwork to Death
Human Abuses
Unlawful Detention

Cambodian People's Party Hun Sen Khmer Rouge Regime

Hun Sen
Chea Sim
Heng Samrin
Hor Namhong
Keat Chhon
Ouk Bunchhoeun
Sim Ka...

Attempted Murders
Attempted Murder on Chea Vichea
Attempted Assassinations
Attempted Assassination on Sam Rainsy
Assassinated Journalists
Assassinated Political Opponents
Assassinated Leaders of the Free Trade Union
Assassinated over 80 members of Sam Rainsy Party.

"But as of today, over eighty members of my party have been assassinated. Countless others have been injured, arrested, jailed, or forced to go into hiding or into exile."
Sam Rainsy LIC 31 October 2009 - Cairo, Egypt
Executed over 100 members of FUNCINPEC Party
Murdered 3 Leaders of the Free Trade Union 
Murdered Chea Vichea
Murdered Ros Sovannareth
Murdered Hy Vuthy
Murdered Journalists
Murdered Khim Sambo
Murdered Khim Sambo's son 
Murdered members of Sam Rainsy Party.
Murdered activists of Sam Rainsy Party
Murdered Innocent Men
Murdered Innocent Women
Murdered Innocent Children
Killed Innocent Khmer Peoples.
Extrajudicial Execution
Grenade Attack
Drive by Shooting
Police Brutality Against Monks
Police Brutality Against Evictees
Death Threats
Human Abductions
Human Abuses
Human Rights Abuses
Human Trafficking
Drugs Trafficking
Under Age Child Sex
Border Encroachment, allow Vietnam to encroaching into Cambodia.
Signed away our territories to Vietnam; Koh Tral, almost half of our ocean territory oil field and others.  
Illegal Arrest
Illegal Mass Evictions
Illegal Land Grabbing
Illegal Firearms
Illegal Logging
Illegal Deforestation

Illegally use of remote detonation bomb on Sokha Helicopter, while Hok Lundy and other military officials were on board.

Lightning strike many airplanes, but did not fall from the sky.  Lightning strike out side of airplane and discharge electricity to ground. 
Source:  Lightning, Discovery Channel

Illegally Sold State Properties
Illegally Removed Parliamentary Immunity of Parliament Members
Plunder National Resources
Acid Attacks
Turn Cambodia into a Lawless Country.
Steal Votes
Bring Foreigners from Veitnam to vote in Cambodia for Cambodian People's Party.
Use Dead people's names to vote for Cambodian People's Party.
Disqualified potential Sam Rainsy Party's voters. 
Abuse the Court as a tools for CPP to send political opponents and journalists to jail.
Abuse of Power
Abuse the Laws
Abuse the National Election Committee
Abuse the National Assembly
Violate the Laws
Violate the Constitution
Violate the Paris Accords
Unlawful Detention
Death in custody.

Under the Cambodian People's Party Hun Sen Khmer Rouge Regime, no criminals that has been committed crimes against journalists, political opponents, leaders of the Free Trade Union, innocent men, women and children have ever been brought to justice. 

Anonymous said...

CORRUPTION destroys STABILITY and PEACE, instead of distributes lands to thousand of villagers to plant sugar canes minister gives lands to 1 person, that is a suicide, those lands are public lands, who is public, public is villagers, not minister, neither company, you want TEA MONEY and you steal lands from Khmers Kg Speu. Crook.

Anonymous said...

Cambodian government is not only very welknown for corruption. Corruption is still not that bad to eradicated. But asian people are calling Cambodian government as Hu Pai. Hu Pai means, desastrous and failure government. This Hu Pai means, this government is not really qualified as a government with rules of laws. But a government organised by family members.

Areak Prey

Anonymous said...

It's up to Cambodian people living in Cambodia. If you don't rise up against those corruption government you will die under Hun Sen's regime. If you all stand up now and you will have a chance and opportunity for a better life. 4 or 5 millions peoples stand up now I am assure your freedom, democracy, human right will prevail.

Anonymous said...

Corruption will not stop, unless we have assassins to take out these officials.

Anonymous said...

Your article says it all about corruption in Cambodia. Your leadership and the SRP are the only hope to save Cambodia. You need to rally up all Cambodians to bring down the dictator Hun Sen and his crony thefts. Philippine’s people power brought down the dictator Maco, and the red shirt of Thai demonstrator reined down the government to negotiation. I know it is not easy when these CPP thugs would not hesitate to use force against peaceful Cambodians, but time and persist peaceful demonstration and persuasion of all Cambodians would someday overthrow this dictator Hun Sen and his thugs.

Anonymous said...

Corruption is a going thing around the world, people are people, it is not a race thing. It doesn't matter where you are living. You need to keep an eye on it and keep working to improve it. It is not just Cambodia !!!!!!
The guy in Philippine won the election because of the promise of eliminating corruption, every Gov. in Thailand had been accused of corruption so as in the US. The congress try to pass law everyday to eliminate the corruption.
Just keep in mind, the word of corruption always come from the unfortunated people (poor). It is the same as the game of sport, the winner always claim it was a fair game and the loser is crying foul or bad referree.
There are more poor people than the rich in the world, so if you use democratic system, there are going to be a riot all the time in that country, because the poor will always blame the rich for their unfortunate either it is true or not.
You just pick Thailand for example, when it is good for the red shirt, the yellow shirt is crying foul and corruption, then now there are another group come to play, the mixed shirt. When this cycle is going to end ? Never !!!!!!!
This is not how civilized society live. Whoever encourage this kind
of riot, misunderstood democracy.
I have no idea on who would lead Cambodia without corruption but I would like to ask some of the blogers, Who would be a perfect person to lead Cambodia ????

Anonymous said...

5:22 AM well said, have to agree with me corruption in Cambodia is well rooted and you can not get rid of it entirely but you can contain it once this is contain oportunities will come to those unfortunate poor but in Cambodia's case even the SRP side will be a no garentee for clean slate govt. Cambodia's military are completely controlled by the CPP because their survival is mainly based on corruption and the CPP let it florish if you upset these people you are finish this include Hun Sen himself. So who have that capability to controll corruption?

Anonymous said...

To 5:22AM

So corruption is everywhere around the world? Well...Why is it that in some countries even with all the corruption going on and their government can still take care of their population such opportunity to have good education, good healthcare, and good job...

Now I am not asking that the government must take care of all people but the government must create environment in a way where majority of the people have the opportunity in the education, in the healthcare, and in the job and once the people got their education and they can pay back into the system to create more opportunity for more people!

I would say the perfect person to lead Cambodia is the one who can create opportunity for Cambodian people!

Anonymous said...

Well, don't give up hope. If people believe that that's the way things are, then nothing is going to change. Let's look at an analogy: when a person is starving, he is more likely to look for food or dream for food. When he eats nothing but little rice porridge, he would dream for a bowl of rice or better. To say that corruption is everywhere and nothing can stop is just another hopeless thinking; to say that " nobody can do better the current government" is dangerous mentality. I beliewve that the Cambodian people should unite and fight the corruption in any way they can. Although, it may takes time, but they should not be discouraged.

Anonymous said...

Corruptions in cambodia already started from Pochintong airport...those police officials never stop asking for money from tourists official kept rubbing and playing with my passport, because i didn't give him $20 dollar...

Anonymous said...

All khmer judges and policeman and high ranking officials in cambodia, they are all corrupted people...

Anonymous said...

As long as youn hen in power, things in Cambodia is never get better. Things get worst and worst. All lands and properties own by foreigners. Where are the poor Cambodians going?

Anonymous said...

agreed with 5:22am. yes, well understood. you are a reasonable person like me. yes, corruption can happen anywhere in any country. they all seemed to focus solely on cambodia's corruption without seeing other positive influence, etc... nobody is saying that corrupt should be tolerated or allowed to continue nonstop; however, it is naive and ignorant to just think that corruption is happening only in cambodia. let's be fair for a change. of course, everyone who are in their right mind should try to demand real reforms in cambodia in many fields. but please don't be blinded by focusing solely on cambodia. it's not right in that sense, really! we all should know better, you know!

Anonymous said...

this brings a question: why are people committed corruption? perhaps to understand the real reason, we should examin what drives people to practice corruption. and if so, it there any law to curb or discourage such despicable act or illegal act? we have to approach it from an grass-root basis. what is the reason people cheated or corrupted? why are they getting away with it so easily? what to do about it? is it possible to stop or prevent it altogether? how?

Anonymous said...

who are we to say they are corrupted and we are not? how could you prove that you too won't be as corrupted as the other person before you, etc? are we just running our mouths or are we serious enough to do something about it, etc! one thing for sure, the rule of the jungle won't be accepted and won't help solve this issue, really! rule of the jungle was in the era of the stone age or dark age, not in today's world, you know! if you use the rule of the jungle, you must be ignorant or stupid or worst, retarded, braindead, etc... educated people think of solution, a way out, the benefit of the community, the country, etc... only ignorant people want to rule the rule of the jungle law! wake up already! two wrongs don't make it right, never!

Anonymous said...

Don't get me wrong. Even though Hun Sen or his CPP wants to use forces that will not go without the rest of the world take note or notice.

Hun Sen think this is 30-50 years ago.

This is the internet era. Hun Sen will be shame by the world media if he thinking to use forces against the un-arm Cambodian.

We must rise and march to remove Hun Sen. We must do it all at once like 4-5million on the street.

Khmer PP,

Anonymous said...

The issue of focussing on corruption in Cambodia only is not important. We don't need to compare her to other countries, but the question is " is corruption in Cambodia serious enough we should worry?" If so, we should we concern about it, talk about it or fight against it in any way we can. If not, ok! No questions asked folks.

Anonymous said...

11:25PM, mr. wise guy!
the answer to your question is obvious. more then 50% of Cambodia is sold. more then 75% of the forest is distroyed. there are about 1,000,000,000US$ aid flow through Cambobida in general and yet the people and country still poor and underdevelop compare to the amount of money donated.

another obvious is that the corrupted govenment officials live in expensive mansion and drive expensive car, mercedes and lexus while their monthly income only $300 to less then $2,000 a month. how else do think they could afford to live in a million dollar house and drive half a million dollar car while majority of the population living under $1 a day.

i am not jealous. i would admire if the money earned honestly but it is obvious from corruptions.

the corruption in cambodia is very serious. the corruption and corrupted officials made the poeple and country as bad as it is today. open your eyes and ears motherfucker! farmers, villagers lost their land and farmland daily. you are fucking idiot to ask those obvious question. what, you just got out from a long long jail sentences or were just born yesterday?

Anonymous said...

The root of corruption are opportunities and lack of punishement. It will happen to any one, any where in the world as long as you consider yourself as a human being, including myself.
Husband or wife is cheating on each other because of opportunities presented itself, for most cases (it is not always the case). If you are in the room with pretty women around you, she will do anything with you, you know what ? thing will happen. If you are in the room full of cash, and nobody around you, you will put some in your pocket. 20/20 did a test in the US, with a hidden camera, proved it.
If you lived under KR, you wouldn't dare to commit such as act because of the harsh punishment.
In the western world, they use the word transperancy to minimize the corruption, not to eliminate it because it is imppossible.
You don't have to look too far to see the problem, just look at your own family (childrent). It dosen't matter what system that you put in place, your kid will lie to you (big or small)at some point in their life no matter what you do. Most of Cambodian women will not allow their husband go to Cambodia alone, Do you know why ????? and most husband will not trust their wife with another man, Do you know why ?????
Most of comment sense people would know how to solve this problem (corruption)but it is just hard to implement.