Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday issued a statement ordering that anti-graft education be incorporated into the national schooling system as part of a wider effort to stamp out corruption in the country.
The statement, released in the lead-up to International Anti-Corruption Day, which falls today, celebrates arrests that the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) has made since its creation in 2010 and calls for the unit as well as other ministries to act further to stamp out corruption.
“After passing the Anti-Corruption Law, the ACU has taken action independently to educate and prevent corruption with the active participation of all ministries, institutions and all levels of authorities,” Mr. Hun Sen wrote, adding that graft is still endemic in the government.
“The leaders of all ministries, institutions and all levels of authorities as well as the private sector should clean up their homes through reflecting in the mirror, taking a shower and washing up all of the filth.”
Mr. Hun Sen added that a long-running plan to inculcate school children against corruption through the national school syllabus should now be put into place.
“The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport has also cooperated well with the Anti-Corruption Unit to compile lessons about anti-corruption that can be integrated into the student curriculum,” he wrote.
“I would like these two institutions to try to make this program begin in…2014-2015. We intend the bamboo shoots that succeed the bamboo tree to grow up with a love of honesty and a hatred of corruption.”
Transparency International last week issued its annual Corruption Perceptions Index, which revealed Cambodia had slipped in the rankings to 160th out of 177 states in terms of public sector corruption.
Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron, who was appointed in late September, said that he had received Mr. Hun Sen’s letter and would move to incorporate anticorruption education into the curricula of the nation’s primary and secondary schools.
“We will establish a committee to review the curriculum and we will meet to incorporate this for all school years in the next school year,” he said.
Mr. Chuon Naron added that the Education Ministry had also begun internal anti-graft reforms by recruiting new teachers through a transparent exam process.
He said the ministry would soon also act to stop the practice of teachers collecting small daily fees from young students to supplement their meager incomes.
“We are starting with the transparency and gradually we will increase management salaries and teacher salaries, and we also have to fully enforce the elimination of the collection of illegal ‘additional fees,’” he said.
Transparency International Cambodia executive director Preap Kol said he welcomed Mr. Hun Sen’s message as a small effort toward stamping out graft.
“It is investment in a new generation, with the hope that when they grow up and some enter the government they will carry over ethical behavior in government, unlike current government officials,” he said, adding that he hoped that the top members of Mr. Hun Sen’s own government would heed his overall message.
“I hope that if they don’t, there will be punishments, more arrests and more prosecutions of the corrupt officials, including of those at the highest levels.”
The ACU last month charged two electricity bill collectors for pilfering bill money in Mondolkiri province as well as a tax official in Preah Sihanouk province for overcharging, but has not yet investigated findings of massive corruption inside the Ministry of Health.
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria on November 15 released damning findings that officials had pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in their management of the fund’s grants and had compromised $12 million in aid to Cambodia.
The government has so far only released statements exonerating ministry officials of wrongdoing in the case, saying that all parties to the graft were responsible except for the Health Ministry itself.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said that the move to educate young students against government corruption was only the latest in a series of measures from the CPP to enforce the Anti-Corruption Law.
“Corruption is not just about law, it’s about changing mindsets, and that’s why it has to be educational—the youth has to understand the harms of corruption,” he said.
© 2013, All rights reserved.