Anti-Corruption Unit May Monitor Gift-Giving by Elite

The Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) on Friday said it may soon start to monitor the often extravagant gift-giving that goes on among the country’s business and political elite at weddings, birthdays and ceremonies.

Speaking at the signing ceremony of an MoU between the ACU and Prudential (Cambodia) Life Insurance PLC, which saw the company commit to doing business honestly, ACU vice chairman Kheang Seng said that such a program was in the works.

Responding to a reporter who noted that the ACU had previously floated such an idea and asked when it would become a reality, Mr. Seng said that the first step would be to conduct a workshop on the topic.

“We can see that our Cambodian people in every party are always giving gifts,” Mr. Seng said.

“We must think: does our society want this to continue like this, or can society change the way it thinks and decide that we need to put a limit on the real value of gifts?” he asked.

“What is a suitable amount? There is a demand to hold a survey based on this idea. We may do it soon.”

Contacted Friday, Preap Kol, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia, said that there is a definite culture among high-ranking government officials of exchanging extravagant gifts.

“When children of high-ranking officials have a party, the officials who attend give gifts such as modern cars, houses, land titles,” Mr. Kol said. “Where does this money come from?”

Mr. Kol, whose organization ranked Cambodia 160th of 177 countries in its 2014 corruption perceptions index, said that such giving was “indirect corruption.”

Am Sam Ath, technical adviser at rights group Licadho, said that extravagant gifts exchanged between powerful families were often used as a facade to conceal corruption. “We acknowledge that it is a person’s right to give a gift, but they always use these parties to also give new rankings or positions,” he said.

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