Lack of Anti-Corruption Law Begets New Unit

In the absence of the long-delayed anti-corruption law, the government has created a new anti-corruption investigation body headed by leading CPP, government and military officials.

The draft anti-corruption law, which provides for the establishment of an independent anti-corruption commissioner to root out rampant bribery and embezzlement in the country, has been in the legislative process since 1994.

Officials said on Monday that because of the delays in passing the law, the government decided on Aug 22 to form an anti-corruption investigation body by subdecree. The body is set to hold its first meeting today.

According to a published copy of the subdecree, the body is part of the Council of Ministers and is headed by Prime Minster Hun Sen’s well-known adviser Om Yentieng.

The group will collect information on corruption, conduct field investigations and report back to Om Yentieng.

The body is stacked with stalwarts of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling CPP. Senior and colorful military and police officials are heavily represented on the body.

“This is just temporary until the law is passed,” Om Yentieng maintained, adding that findings by his group will be passed on to the courts for prosecution.

Asked why all the members of the body appear to have been drawn from the top layers of the CPP, Om Yentieng responded: “it belongs to the government.”

Chheng Saroeun, a CPP secretary of state at the Ministry of National Assembly and Senate Relations and Inspection, who was appointed to the body, said that he did not know what the budget and staff of the investigative unit would be. “The government has the idea that the [anti-corruption] law might not be passed on time,” he said.

Yim Sovann, SRP lawmaker and National Assembly anti-corruption commission chairman, said the body was farcical. “This is like a joke. It is very funny,” Yim Sovann said. “Om Yentieng is the head of the [government’s] human rights committee and there are more problems with human rights. Now he is the head of the corruption commission. Will there be more corruption?” he asked. “We already have the Inspection Ministry, we already have the National Audit Authority but they are very influenced by the government and they do very little. This commission will do very little,” Yim Sovann added.

“Look at the list and some of the members have been involved in allegations of drug trafficking. How can they curb corruption?”

One member of the new anti-corruption body is Major General Dom Hak, deputy commander of RCAF infantry. In October 2003, Dom Hak, then working for RCAF infantry military intelligence, was arrested briefly and charged by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court with being an “accomplice” in a major heroin drug trafficking ring after the discovery of some 35 kg of the drug in a Tuol Kok district villa.

He was arrested following statements made by another RCAF military intelligence officer who was arrested with 12 Chinese suspects at the villa where the drugs were found. The now-disgraced former Phnom Penh Police Com­missioner Heng Pov conducted the anti-drug raid.

Charges against Dom Hak were dropped shortly after due to a lack of evidence, deputy National Military Police commander Vong Pisen told reporters at the time.

Vong Pisen is also on the new anti-corruption commission.

Contacted on Monday, Dom Hak denied he was ever involved in any wrongdoing.

The new body’s vice chairman, General Mol Roeup, the director of RCAF’s powerful military intelligence department, declined comment on his appointment to fight corruption.

Major donors meeting at the Consultative Group with the government in March set June 30 as a deadline to pass the anti-corruption law.

In March, experts studying the draft anti-corruption law identified major weaknesses in the legislation compiled by the government, which fell far beneath international standards.

The World Bank, UN Develop­ment Program and the anti-corruption NGO Pact Cambodia, all strong proponents of an anti-corruption law, declined to comment on the establishment of the new commission.

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