How do Cambodians get to the roots of corruption?
Educating the country’s children was one of the suggestions made during an anti-corruption seminar held recently in Phnom Penh.
Nearly 100 representatives from human rights and legal NGOs, the government and the court system attended the event organized by the Khmer Human Rights and Against Corruption Organization (Khraco).
Corruption must become culturally unacceptable to Cambo-dians if it is to disappear, said Sok Sam Oeun, executive director for the Cambodian Defenders Project.
In order to change this, one must start with children, he said. “We should educate individuals to hate corruption. If individuals are willing to fight it, the whole society will.”
The current system is to follow what the boss says—not what the law says, explained Sok Sam Oeun. “At the present time in the country, the common practice when handling money is to set some aside for the boss.”
Kem Sokha, chairman of the Senate Human Rights Committee, agreed. Not only must politicians be determined to fight corruption, but people—particularly the young—must want to curb it. “When I was a student in high school, students strongly opposed corruption. Today’s students don’t seem that determined to do so,” he said.
“Money is the source of power,” Khem Sokha said, adding that current laws seem designed to serve the government’s interests rather than the public’s, he added.
This is why the court system in Cambodia must become more independent, said Chhim Phalvorun, legal adviser to the National Assembly. “An independent court is the first issue that this country should address to fight corruption and abuse of the law,”
Nhem Vanthorn, executive director of Khraco, talked about the creation of a regional anti-corruption committee to share information on money laundering and organized crime. He hopes such a committee will track the origins of money from abroad that is given to political parties here.