The much anticipated anti-corruption law will be ready by June 2003 for consideration by the National Assembly, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Thursday in his opening address to donors.
Legislation to combat corruption has been in the works for nearly eight years now, disappointing some of the country’s international donors, who met Thursday near Wat Phnom for the first day of formal talks at this year’s Consultative Group meeting.
The European Union, Sweden and the US were among donors that specifically pointed out inaction on the law in statements issued Thursday. The law has been in the works since 1995 but has never been finished for legislative review.
Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Son Chhay said the law could have been passed several years ago, but the government has been delaying it for political reasons.
“They don’t want any action to take place until the next election,” said Son Chhay, who drafted the original version of the law.
Hun Sen has said the national elections will take place July 27, 2003.
The legislation would establish an independent anti-corruption commission and could require all government officials to disclose their sources of wealth, Son Chhay said. The assembly has been waiting for the law since February 2000, he said.
“We only wait for the green light from the government so we can debate and go ahead,” he said.
While stopping short of saying that a June 2003 passage of the law would be too far off, European Commission charge d’affaires Aldo Dell’ Ariccia said Thursday, “the sooner the better.”
A clear move to eradicate corruption and an effort toward legal and judicial reform would be important “if we want to re-establish the confidence of international investors in the country and increase foreign direct investment,” he said.
The UK described progress on action points agreed to at last year’s donor meeting in Tokyo as “overall disappointing” and called for the government to be held accountable.
Those points included judicial reform and corruption.
Van Sou Ieng, president of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia, said Thursday that for outside investors, judicial and legal reform remained top priorities.
“Investors are not confident without it,” he said.
Recently, businessmen have been jailed under criminal auspices for non-criminal cases, he claimed. Investors, while willing to take some risks on profit, are not willing to risk going to jail, Van Sou Ieng said. “It’s not acceptable.”
“If all investors knew of such a thing, they would not come [to Cambodia],” he said. “Judicial reform is going to have to take place quickly.”
Hun Sen told donors Thursday morning that reforming the judiciary would require “colossal adminsitrative capacity and resources.”
Donors are scheduled to announce their pledges today. The government has asked for $1.45 billion for three years, or around $485 million per year.