Anti-Corruption Law Could Go to Vote in 2005

To counter what many ob­servers have decried as worsening corruption in government and civil society, members of a government-appointed working group said an anti-corruption law could be ready for a vote in the National Assembly by 2005.

During a workshop to discuss the draft law’s progress on Wednes­day, government officials and observers blamed worsening corruption for a stumbling economy, a rise in child mortality and an increase in drug-related crime, and pointed to the law’s passage as at least a stopgap measure.

Working group members said they anticipated the law to be ready next year.

“If the anti-corruption law was adopted, it does not mean that we could get rid of corruption. But we need to enforce it to use the law to punish corrupted persons,” said Chea Vannath, president of the Center for Social Develop­ment, which hosted the workshop.

Wednesday’s meeting was called to discuss the recommendations of a government-appointed working group on the draft law, comprised of representatives from government, NGOs and the private sector.

Though a draft anti-corruption law was approved by the Council of Ministers in the last mandate, it was not passed by the National Assembly and was handed over to the working group for further discussion after a meeting be­tween CPP and Funcinpec officials during the deadlock of the government.

Among the group’s recommendations was that the law not be made retroactive. An attempt to prosecute all acts of corruption over the last 30 years would choke the Cambodian judicial system, said Chea Vannath, one of the members of the working group.

Moeung Sonn, managing di­rector of Eurasie Travel, disagreed, saying that a law that was not retroactive was unfair to the private sector, which is held to the retroactive tax law.

An increase in civil servants’ salaries must also accompany the law’s passage, he said.

“I believe the anti-corruption law will become a paper tiger if the government doesn’t raise salaries for officials and civil servants,” he said.

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