Cambodia is perceived to be slightly less corrupt than last year but still one of the most graft-ridden countries in the world, according to Transparency International’s 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), which was released Wednesday.
The country received a score of 21 out of 100 and a rank of 156 out of 175 nations surveyed, up from the 20 points and 160th position it held in 2013, when 177 countries were included in the index. A score of 100 represents the “cleanest” a country can be.
Cambodia tied with Burma to receive the worst score in Southeast Asia this year. Singapore was perceived to be the least corrupt country in the region, with a score of 84 and global rank of 7.
Cambodia has yet to merit a score higher than it did in 2005, when it was first included in the index and received a 23, and has been stuck inside the dismal 20-to-22 range for the past six years.
War-torn Syria, which scored just 17 last year, is now nipping at Cambodia’s ankles, improving to a score of 20.
Cambodia’s CPI score is based on seven global sources, including standardized indexes taken from the World Bank, the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Country Risk Ratings and the World Economic Forum’s Executive Opinion Survey.
At an event to mark the release of the latest index at the Raffles Hotel Le Royal in Phnom Penh on Wednesday morning, Transparency International Cambodia executive director Preap Kol said the country’s modest improvement comes at time of significant social change.
“The issue of corruption, which the people used to say is the way of life…is no longer the way of life,” he said. “Now, the citizen thinks that corruption is a social problem, a cancerous disease and a social disease. They cannot tolerate it anymore.”
According to a statement distributed at the event, measuring “perceptions of corruption of those in a position to offer assessments of public sector corruption is the most reliable method of comparing relative corruption levels across countries.”
On the other hand, empirical data, collected from reports of bribery and graft cases pursued by the courts, more often indicates the abilities of state prosecutors, the statement says.
Son Chhay, chief whip of the opposition CNRP, said Wednesday that Cambodia’s CPI score confirmed that corruption remains rife at the most basic levels of government service provision, where bribes are almost always required to receive service in a timely manner.
“There has been very little action since the anti-corruption body was created,” Mr. Chhay said, referring to the government’s Anti-Corruption Unit, which is charged with investigating graft in the country.
“On taking bribes, I personally believe it is getting worse, not getting any better. Officials still take bribes without the need to worry about anything,” he said.
“There will not be any improvement until a better system is put in place to make sure bribery is less. That means setting up a more legitimate [anti-corruption] organization and to ensure those who delay providing services are punished,” he said.
“Without this, nothing will change and the score next year will be worse.”
But CPP lawmaker Sik Bunhok, deputy chairman of the National Assembly’s anti-corruption commission, said he was pleased to hear that the country’s CPI score had risen by a point—an indication that things were improving.
“The two political parties are putting in the effort, and the Anti-Corruption Unit is also putting in the effort, to work on this issue,” Mr. Bunhok said. “We have to work on this issue together, and then corruption will be reduced, step by step.”