Corruption in Cambodia “deepens poverty, debases human rights, degrades the environment and derails development,” according to a UN Development Program regional study released last week.
The study, titled “Tackling Corruption, Transforming Lives,” calls corruption “one of the most pressing concerns for the region,” and says that small scale corruption— such as fees, bribes and “speed money” paid to police, judges, doctors, teachers and the like—causes day-to-day suffering throughout the Asia-Pacific.
“Hauling the rich and powerful before the courts may grab the headlines, but the poor will benefit more from efforts to eliminate the corruption that plagues their everyday lives,” reads the report, which was conducted by a 16-person team out of the UN Regional Bureau in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
The study highlights corruption in politics and law enforcement, citing the Transparency International “Global Corruption Barometer of 2006” that showed that people in the Asia-Pacific identified politicians and judiciary workers as the most corrupt. The study mentions that in Cambodia, a World Bank “survey found that 89 percent of encounters with traffic police resulted in a bribe.”
It also pointed out the education and health care systems, because bribes for admission, grades and prompt medical appointments were pervasive, the study found.
Exploitation of natural resources such as land, water, forests, fisheries, wildlife and minerals is a huge problem, the study said, putting a particular focus on land grabbing.
SRP lawmaker Yim Sovann, chair of the National Assembly’s anti-corruption commission, said corruption is difficult to curb because the involvement of politicians.
“Some government leaders do not have dedication to anti-corruption,” he said. “Now, a government run by CPP could not stop corruption because the corruption in Cambodia looks like a cancer.”
The study noted the need for anti-corruption legislation, which Cambodia lacks.
However, the government is continuing to work toward drafting such a law, said Pal Sam Oeun, a CPP lawmaker and deputy chair of the anti-corruption commission. He added that even without the anti-corruption law, the government has taken strides in combating corruption.
“The government has its anti-corruption committee, and that committee has arrested a few corrupt persons involved in…logging, car smuggling and fishing.”
Sek Barisoth, director of the anti-corruption division of the NGO Pact Cambodia, said that there is a pressing need for such legislation to be passed.
“We do have some legal mechanisms in place through the current criminal code,” he said, “but it’s not sufficient because corruption has so many forms.”