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UN Rapped for ‘Interfering’ on Graft Law

Cambodia accused the UN’s country team of “flagrantly” interfering in its internal affairs Friday, after the team issued a rebuke of the rapid debate this week of a graft law.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the country team appeared to be “lecturing” the government on the law, passed by the National Assembly on Thursday with little public or parliamentary debate.

The government “cannot accept lessons given by a few individuals comprising this Team,” the Foreign Ministry said.

The UN team “should not act out of its mandate, in flagrantly interfering in the internal affairs of a UN member State,” the ministry said. “Furthermore, it should refrain from acting as if it were the spokesperson of the opposition parties.”

UN representatives were not immediately available for comment Friday.

The Anticorruption Law took only two days to debate and pass, without any significant changes from the original draft of the Council of Ministers, which took more than a decade to create.

Civic groups and both opposition parties quickly decried the law, saying it had not created a sufficiently independent anti-corruption body and was unlikely to curb the practice.

A statement from the UN country team on Wednesday expressed “concern” that the law was passed within days of being announced to the public. The team encouraged delay on debate of the law, to allow public consideration.

The Embassy of Japan on Friday called the law “a step forward for good governance,” but declined to comment further because it had not obtained a copy of the draft until March 9.

John Johnson, a spokesman for the US Embassy, said, “We trust that the implementing regulations will clarify and enhance the law’s aim to detect and punish corruption according to international standards.”

The US estimates that Cambodia loses $500 million a year to graft.

“We are very disappointed and very sorry that we had no ability to push the National Assembly to change its decision,” the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, a consortium of more than 20 agencies, said Friday. “We are very worried for some negative articles in the law.”