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Fight Is About Corruption, Not Government: Advocate

The fight against corruption should not be viewed as antagonistic towards the entire government, a leading anti-graft advocate said Monday. Instead, laws, regulations and policies should be aimed at anyone involved in corruption, leaving aside those who aren’t.

“Don’t confuse them,” said Mam Sitha, president of the Cambodian Independent Anti-Corruption Committee.

“To fight against corruption is to fight against those who commit corruption,” she said, as a guest on “Hello VOA.” The issue can be confused as anti-government, she said, “because many of the corruptors work in the government.”

Last week, the Council of Ministers green-lighted a draft anti-corruption law that has been in the works for more than a decade and is anxiously awaited by donors and other organizations. The bill, which has nine chapters and 57 articles, is expected to be debated in the National Assembly soon.

Critics like Mam Sitha, however, worry the law will be difficult to enforce and is missing key components to stanch the country’s endemic corruption.

For example, a strong law should call for public—not secret—declarations of assets by public officials and must protect informants, she said.

A strong law will also have an independent corruption committee that is under the prime minister, not the Council of Ministers, Mam Sitha said, and should carry enough authority to dissuade political interference.

In the current climate, people are afraid to speak out on corruption, even if they witness it, and a newly passed criminal law has little to allay those fears, she said.

The criminal law, which was passed as a precursor to the anti-corruption law, upholds as criminal offenses both defamation and disinformation. Critics charge that both offenses have been used in punitive attacks on government critics, including journalists and opposition members.