The Truth About Cambodia’s So-Called Corruption Crackdown

Efforts to root out corruption in the country are likely to run once again into familiar realities.

Over the past few weeks, we have seen some indications of calls for greater focus on anti-corruption in Cambodia. While these indications may be notable, they obscure both the extent of the challenge and underestimate the degree to which they relate to issues of broader political power in the country.

Corruption in Cambodia and purported efforts to combat it are nothing new. Cambodia, after all, is ranked the most corrupt country in Southeast Asia, a region not known for untainted officials, and is just as corrupt as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Haiti. Transparency International rates it 161st out of 180 countries. It is also one of the world’s worst countries for money laundering, as the Basel Anti-Money Laundering Index regularly finds. Despite multiple efforts to crack down on corruption, it remains widespread in Cambodia today and is tied to the way its politics is conducted, including by the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and Prime Minister Hun Sen himself.

But over the past few weeks, the issue has been in the spotlight again. Of particular note have been comments from Cambodia state-linked outlets talking about anti-corruption as an agenda item of Hun Sen. That has come amid other developments, including comments by Hun Manet, Hun Sen’s oldest son and deputy commander in chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces at a ceremony to appoint a new provincial military commander, and reports tying anti-corruption to other issues such as tax revenue collection.

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