Gov’t Might Not Allow UN Graft Reviews, Official Says

A government representative returned yesterday from a UN anticorruption conference in Qatar, saying Cambodia was unlikely to allow the external, independent reviews cal­led for under an international agreement reached Friday.

Cambodia was one of 142 signatories to the 2003 UN Convention Against Corruption that hashed out an agreement on Friday to help enforce the convention after a week of negotiations in the Qatari capital, Doha.

Observers and NGOs, including Global Witness and Transparency International, called Friday’s agreement “toothless” and said a handful of countries led by Iran, Egypt, Russia, Algeria and China had made key provisions in the agreement voluntary rather than mandatory.

Friday’s agreement will allow for independent review teams to visit countries every five years to verify whether they are meeting their commitments under the convention.

Copies of the agreement on a mechanism to monitor countries’ compliance with the 2003 convention were unavailable over the weekend.

However, according to media reports, under the weakened provisions agreed to in Doha, states party to the convention may now block independent, outside reviews and prevent their assessments from being published.

Sar Sambath, a member of the anti-corruption unit at the Council of Ministers who attended the five-day conference in Doha, said on his return yesterday that the government may hesitate to allow Con­vention review teams into Cambodia.

“We have to consider deeply whether we will allow the review since it might affect the country’s sovereignty and each country has its own sovereignty,” he said.

Cambodia did not actively participate in the debate in Doha but favored the final agreement, he said.

Cambodia is routinely ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

Mr Sambath said that Cambodia had yet to receive any technical assistance from donor organizations and would therefore likely perform such reviews itself.

“We will do it on our own since we have yet to get technical assistance from a country,” he said.

The convention, to which Cam­bodia acceded in 2007, re­quires member states to criminalize corruption, recover stolen as­sets and provide public access to government financial information.



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