Nepotism in Assembly Not Illegal, Spokesman Says

CPP National Assembly spokesman Chheang Vun said Saturday that there will be no investigation into why the parliament’s bureaucratic ranks are stacked with family members of one of its chief administrators, explaining that no law prohibits nepotism in the public sector.

CNRP chief whip Son Chhay last month wrote to National Assembly Secretary-General Leng Peng Long accusing the official’s deputy, Mith Karen, of giving at least seven of his family members positions heading parliamentary departments.

Speaking in an interview on Radio Free Asia on Saturday, Mr. Vun, who is also a long-serving CPP lawmaker, said there would be no investigation into Mr. Chhay’s claims.

“There is no law to forbid families from working together. On this, wait until another day and we will think about it,” Mr. Vun said during the radio interview. “If there is no law yet, and we go and accuse them of corruption, and it’s only a family working together, it’s very serious.”

Mr. Karen has acknowledged that numerous members of his family, including both his daughter and son-in-law—the director of the finance department—hold senior positions in the National Assembly, but has claimed that they were selected on merit.

Contacted Sunday, Mr. Chhay rejected Mr. Vun’s remarks and said that such nepotism is self-evidently illegal. He accused the senior CPP lawmaker of protecting Mr. Karen.

“In fact, when we talk about corruption and nepotism, that is against the law,” Mr. Chhay said. “In the Constitution, it also says it is the responsibility of the government to ensure accountability and transparency in the administration.

“So it is quite strange for a member of the ruling party to try to cover up or protect this family in the National Assembly even when there is clear evidence that this kind of appointment is violating the law and is a conflict of interests, which is mentioned in the Anti-Corruption Law.”

Mr. Chhay added that he believed about 20 members of Mr. Karen’s extended family now work in the assembly.

Mr. Vun said by telephone that Mr. Chhay should think twice before continuing his campaign to investigate Mr. Karen.

“He should be careful with his accusations…. They will come back to bite his hand, since this impacts the lawmakers,” Mr. Vun said. “What evidence is there to show that they are corrupt? Or is this huge defamation?”

Mr. Chhay said he was still hopeful the National Assembly standing committee, which is controlled by the ruling party, would launch an investigation into his complaints.

“It is important there is a committee formed to investigate this problem,” he said. “Without doing so, it is clear the governing party has no intention to fight corruption in this country.”

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