Deputy Prime Minister Sok An said Tuesday that the government must punish some corrupt officials and hold them up as an example to others.
“If we can arrest two to three guilty officials, then we can use this example to show others,” Sok An said at a meeting in Phnom Penh on developing small and medium-sized enterprise.
“Even though we haven’t arrested anyone yet, we are committed to stopping corrupt people,” he said, noting that corruption was a major obstacle for small and medium-sized business sector expansion.
“It is part of good governance reform. The corruption law will pass soon,” he added, but did not specify a time frame for the long-stalled Anti-Corruption Law.
Some noted the timing of Sok An’s comments, which come shortly before the March consultative group meeting of donors, where the government’s anti-corruption efforts are likely to be put under the spotlight.
“We don’t take this kind of statement seriously,” said opposition lawmaker Son Chhay, when told of Sok An’s comments.
“I don’t know if this is just to impress the donor countries or if it is the beginning of some action the government is going to take,” he continued. “Deep down, corruption is getting worse and worse every day. Let’s not talk about it. Let’s take some action.”
Sek Barisoth, director of an anti-corruption program at the NGO Pact Cambodia, also said that Sok An’s statements could have been made with the CG meeting in mind.
“I believe it, with reservation. It is very close to the CG meeting,” Sek Barisoth said.
“But it is also close to the 2008 election,” he added. “So it could be that the government has seen that it is time to do something for the sake of society.”