Citizens See Cambodia as One of the Most Corrupt Countries

Cambodians perceive their country as one of the world’s 10 most corrupt countries, and the most corrupt in Asia, with nearly 60 percent of citizens surveyed by Transparency International (T.I.) this year admitting to having paid a bribe over the past 12 months.

According to T.I.’s Global Corruption Barometer for 2013 released Tuesday, which is based on interviews with roughly 115,000 people across 107 countries only citizens of Yemen and seven African countries such as Zimbabwe, Cameroon and Mo­zambique found their country to have more graft than Cam­bodia.

“Our neighbors are already several steps ahead in fighting corruption and the paying of bribes,” said Kol Preap, executive director of T.I. Cambodia, at the launch of the report in Phnom Penh.

In Cambodia, 57 percent of those questioned said they or someone in their household has paid a bribe to police, the judiciary, NGOs, media, business, military, political parties or other authorities in the past year.

Across Southeast Asia, Cambodia’s judiciary was the only one perceived as equally as corrupt as the police force.

Sixty-five percent of those who admitted paying a bribe reported paying it to the police and the judiciary over the past 12 months, according to the report.

“At the court, at every layer there is a fee. Submitting the case with the clerk, registering the case, there is a fee that’s not determined by law so it’s considered a bribe,” Mr. Preap said. “Going through the court, there is no chance of getting away without corruption.”

Mr. Preap noted that the actual number of citizens who pay bribes was likely to be much higher than the report suggested because many people simply see making informal payments to the government as a way of “expressing gratitude.”

According to the report, 15 percent of Cambodians interviewed had paid a bribe as it was the only way to obtain a service. That figure compared to 23 percent of respondents in Malaysia and 26 percent in Vietnam.

Under Cambodia’s anti-corruption statute adopted in 2010, paying “facilitation” fees to government officials is punishable by between five and 10 years in jail. The new law also makes foreign companies operating here liable under bribery laws in their own countries.

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, dismissed the report and said the creation of the anti-corruption law and the formation of the Anti-corruption Unit was proof of the government’s commitment to fighting graft.

“Cambodia is proud to fight against corruption…and we have done much and installed mechanisms to fight corruption,” he said.

“We are on a good track…corruption happens everywhere in the world. I will not listen to a report [that shows] bias against Cambodia and the CPP.”

Worldwide, more than 80 countries found that corruption was getting worse. However, Cambodia was among 11 nations whose citizens sensed an improvement, according to the report.

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