Cambodia’s judicial system is chronically underfunded, not independent of government control and subject to high levels of petty corruption, Transparency International states in its annual “Global Corruption Report.”
The report, which was released Thursday and focuses on corruption in judicial systems, states that Cambodia’s lower courts “do not meet basic international standards, and lack transparency, consistency and due process.”
“From the moment one becomes involved with the judicial system, either as a defendant or as a party in a civil case, one encounters misuse of entrusted power for private gain,” the report states.
The report adds that significant sources of corruption are the paucity of legal personnel and the courts’ financial structures. Provincial courts are allocated just $23,100 each year, the report states, adding that as of August 2006 there were only 225 judges and less than 300 practicing lawyers nationwide.
The report also states that many judges have connections to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling CPP, “which can compromise their impartiality in cases involving the government or party officials.”
The report also takes the judiciary and the government to task for the lack of public access to judicial decisions and the slow pace of judicial reform initiatives.
Ke Sakhorn, deputy director of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, said that there was a shortage of judges in the legal system.
“In general, we lack human resources…. We are engaged in training, but it is not enough to meet what is demanded yet,” he said.
Justice Ministry Secretary of State Meach Sam On said that the views in the report only reflected the view of Transparency International. He added that there was some corruption, but it was difficult to find and root out.
“It is hard to see the people who commit it,” he said.
Theary Seng, director of the Center for Social Development and co-author of the Cambodia section of the Transparency report, said Friday that the current state of the judiciary was not good.
“Not much has changed, maybe [it has changed] for the worse, because time has cemented all the bad practices,” she said. “[The judiciary] continues to be a tool of politics.”
The CSD is Transparency International’s sole contact in Cambodia, she added.