King Signs Law To Create of Anti-Graft Institution

The bright yellow block letters say it all.

Seven weeks after getting a first glimpse of their new anticorruption law, Cambodians now have an office for their very own anticorruption institution.

Sounding more like an academy of higher learning, the institution will in fact be the country’s first major body tasked solely with the responsibility of fighting corruption in Cambodia.

But while the sign for the new institution is now prominently in place at the front gate of the former RCAF High Command headquarters on Norodom Boulevard in Phnom Penh, the creation of the two bodies that will form the institution–the National Council for Anticorruption and the Anticorruption Unit–has not yet occurred.

Under the provisions of the anticorruption law, the government has six months from the promulgation of the new anti-graft law to create the new bodies.

After the hurrah surrounding the passage of the draft anticorruption law through the National Assembly and the Senate in early March, the promulgation of the law slipped silently under the radar just weeks later.

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said yesterday that King Norodom Sihamoni signed the anticorruption law last month, though he could not remember the exact date.

According to the anticorruption law, King Norodom Sihamoni’s signature means the majority of the provisions contained within the law are already in effect. The only ones not in effect are provisions relating to the disclosure of assets and the offences that are listed in the new penal code, which was adopted last year but is not yet in force.

Those required to disclose their assets–including public officials and leaders of civil society organizations–will have to do so within 60 days of the creation of the anticorruption council and the unit.

The list of offences from the new penal code to be applied under the new anticorruption law will not be implemented until 12 months after the new penal code comes into effect in December.

Mr Yeap said last week that the lengthy wait for some of the provisions to come into effect would allow the government to help the educate the public about the contents of the law.

“We educate the people on that law…. We disseminate the law to them so that they understand well,” he said, adding that he planned on printing hundreds of copies of the law for his own constituents in Prey Veng province.

But many provisions in the new law are already in effect.

“Except for those [stipulated in the law], the rest comes into force immediately,” Mr Siphan said, adding that both the anticorruption council and unit will be housed at the same location in the capital.

One provision already in effect proscribes “abuse of power,” in which public servants or elected officials take action to hinder law enforcement while exercising their duties. Another is “benefiting from corruption offences,” which applies to people who act as intermediaries in corrupt activities.

The anticorruption law stipulates that until the government creates the new anticorruption council and unit, the old anticorruption unit, under the Council of Ministers, will continue to function.

Committee for Free and Fair Elections Executive Director Koul Panha said yesterday that the government would hopefully treat the creation of the two new anticorruption bodies as an urgent matter.

“It is very urgent that the government immediately move to create the anticorruption bodies, so they can explain in more detail how the law will be implemented,” Mr Panha said.

SRP lawmaker and opposition spokesman Yim Sovann said yesterday that when the government created the new anticorruption institution did not really matter because he did not expect anticorruption laws to be applied more vigorously the laws are now.

“The problem is the political will of the government to apply the laws,” he said.

“The future anticorruption body will be no different to the anticorruption unit currently working under the Council of Ministers…. There will not be any change-no difference.”


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