Criticisms of Anti-Corruption Law Discussed

The two-day public workshop on the anti-corruption draft law concluded Thursday with Leng Peng Long, secretary of state for the Ministry of National Assembly, and Senate Relations and Inspection who chairs the law’s drafting committee, responding, item by item, to criticisms of the draft’s provisions. 

Asked why there were no provisions to protect people reporting acts of corruption from defamation lawsuits, Leng Peng Long said that Cambodia must shield its citizens from people with grudges, which means leaving informants potentially liable.

The participants—government officials, members of international and national organizations, and NGO workers—discussed the structure of the future Supreme National Council for Anti-Corruption whose seven members are to be appointed respectively by the King, National Assembly, Senate, Audit Authority, Constitutional Council, Supreme Council of Magistracy and the government.

Members of the audience suggested including a representative from civil society to provide a more diversified mix of people on the council.

“If we do not trust the seven high institutions [to select appropriate council members] then our society will collapse,” Leng Peng Long responded. Besides, he added, “Our law does not define ‘civil society’ so we would not know who to choose.”

UN technical adviser Bertrand de Speville suggested that King Norodom Sihamoni choose a civil society member for his pick.

Sok Sam Oeun, director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, pointed out that placing the council’s investigators under the authority of the court prosecutor for search and seizures would curb their independence.

Leng Peng Long replied that the Constitution requires the prosecutor to oversee all criminal procedures.

The draft law stipulates that the council will select and control the secretary-general who will manage operations. De Speville recommended omitting the words “control and direct [the secretary-general]” in the draft to make him more free to pursue powerful individuals.

Leng Peng Long said he felt the council must be able to control and direct the secretary-general. Otherwise, he would be unaccountable, he said.

The draft law states that public officials’ declarations of assets will remain confidential unless an investigation is launched into a particular official’s assets.

Asked why these declarations could not be made public, Leng Peng Long answered that public disclosure “could cause robberies and even killings…even a monk who is carrying 1 million riel gets robbed.”

De Speville suggested having advisory committees of members of the public within every anti-corruption department. Leng Peng Long replied there would be financial obstacles to doing this, a factor audience members said would not apply since those members would not be salaried.

Leng Peng Long said this week’s workshop may be the only one held before a revised draft of the law was submitted to the Council of Ministers, which should take place in September.

However, “members of the public are always welcome to send their comments to our ministry,” he said.



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