Cambodians deeply distrust the nation’s judiciary and police, and most don’t believe corruption will go away any time soon, according to Transparency International, a global anti-corruption group.
In a December survey of 60 countries, the group found that nearly three-quarters of Cambodians had paid a bribe in the last year, making Cambodia the most corrupt country in the Asia-Pacific region, according to TI.
Globally, only Cameroon, where 79 percent of people surveyed reported paying a bribe, fared worse.
The detailed findings of the TI survey, released at a news conference in Phnom Penh on Wednesday, show that in Cambodia bribes were paid—or requested—in almost all public services. The majority were for less than $5.
The survey, which canvassed 1,016 people, also found that more Cambodians paid bribes than were asked to pay bribes.
Respondents in the TI survey ranked the judiciary and police as most corrupt. Nearly half of Cambodians who had contact with the courts and 62 percent who dealt with the police had paid a bribe.
“These two institutions are essentially the backbone of every state. These institutions are also supposed to be neutral,” said Kay Engelhardt, associate research director at TNS, which conducted the poll in Cambodia on behalf of TI.
Sok Sam Oeun, the executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said that over the years Cambodians have grown accustomed to making petty cash payments to expedite services and avoid trouble.
“It is their habit,” he said.
Also, he said, Cambodians often make payments to show gratitude.
Thirty percent of people who dealt with the education system paid a bribe, according to the TI survey.
Chiv Yument, the executive director of the Khmer Youth Association, said parents pay so teachers will be more attentive to their children.
“Some poor children have no money to pay the teacher,” he said, adding: “It causes them to drop out of school.”
The survey also found that Cambodians in rural and remote areas were more pessimistic about corruption than their wealthier urban peers.
Only three out of 10 Cambodians felt the government’s anti-corruption measures were effective, according to the survey.
Eight out of 10 said they would personally take action to reduce corruption, chiefly by marching in protest.
Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana and You Bunleng, President of the Appeals Court and a co-investigating judge at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, both declined to comment on the report’s findings Wednesday.
Deputy National Police Chief Mao Chandara said he had no comment.
“Go and ask that NGO. Don’t ask me,” he said, before hanging up his phone.