Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith on Friday defended a decision by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling CPP to not participate in a meeting on Wednesday at which six of the eight political parties contesting seats in the July 28 national election pledged to stamp out corruption.
Mr. Kanharith held a meeting with journalists to explain that his colleagues in the CPP had sent no representatives to the Transparency International meeting in Phnom Penh because the party had already signed a memorandum of understanding with its own Anti-Corruption Unit last year.
“The Cambodian People’s Party signed a memorandum of understand with the Anti-Corruption Unit in 2012 already,” Mr. Kanharith said. “So that is why on that day, the Cambodian People’s Party thought that we didn’t need to sign the pledge again,” he said.
Mr. Kanharith said the ruling party is also a signatory to the Southeast Asia Parties Against Corruption (SEAPAC) agreement, which was made in 2010, as well as a U.N. convention to arrest and confiscate the overseas property of corrupt officials.
“The Cambodian People’s Party has not only signed pledges, but also implements ways to fight corruption. Saying that the CPP refused to attend [Wednesday’s pledge against corruption event] is a complete twist,” Mr. Kanharith said, referring to comments made by officials of Transparency International regarding the apparent snub of their event.
“Just because we didn’t sign it doesn’t mean we want to avoid fighting corruption,” he said.
At a Transparency International press conference on corruption in the Asia-Pacific region held on Friday, Transparency’s Cambodia executive director Preap Kol said that while the ruling party had been “noticeably absent” from the pledging ceremony on Wednesday, he beleived that steps have been made to fight corruption in Cambodia.
“We also know that the government has shown its commitment by including a program to fight corruption in their strategic development plan,” he said.
“We’d like to see the government take concrete measures and implement them effectively to live up to the expectations of the Cambodian people; the people have said that it has been slow and it has not been enough and they want to see more actions, especially enforcing the law and prosecuting officials that are involved in committing corruption.”
Mr. Kol said the Anti-Corruption Unit, which was established in 2010, is working too slowly.
“The cases that the government has received through the ACU have piled up. A few months ago, we know there were around 1,000 cases, but only several people have been brought to justice,” he said.
According to Transparency International’s 2012 corruption perceptions index, Cambodia ranked a lowly 157 among 176 countries and territories, placing it among the most corrupt countries in the world.