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Lawmakers Debated on a Draft Anti-Corruption Law

Lawmakers debated Friday a draft anti-corruption law that fails to require the government’s top officials to declare their assets and sources of income.

While the draft law does require lower-level government officials to make public disclosures about their wealth and incomes, the omission of top officials to the same requirement alarms some lawmakers and civil society advocates.

The long-awaited draft law – for years encouraged by international donors that fund approximately half of the government’s expenses, but which the government failed to take action on – will be revised by officials at the Ministry of Parliamentarian and Senatorial Relations and Inspections before being sent back to the floor of the National Assembly for continued debate, lawmakers said.

The draft law’s aim is for increased transparency among government officials, with the goal being a reduction in the illicit earning of money. Corruption is one of the most significant problems plaguing Cambodia in the post-communist era, the World Bank, the U.N. and Prime Minister Hun Sen agree.

However, the Hun Sen and his ruling ministers have done little of substance to combat the problem.

The draft law calls for senators, national assembly members, government employees and military officials should make their assets public, lawmakers said.

Mao Sophan and Ty Lum Ang, lawmakers from the Funcinpec party, said the law should be revised to include all top government officials, including the head of state, a reference to the king, and to the prime minister, deputy prime ministers and judges.

Son Chhay, an opposition party lawmaker, asserted the law would be ‘’ineffective’’ if it did not require wives and children of top officials to reveal their income sources, because family members can be used as easy ways for corrupt officials to hide earnings.

Chan Cheng, a National Assembly member from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, emphasized that disclosures should be made publicly – not in secret – and that most ministers and secretaries of state are today corrupt, using their positions of power to generate money for personal gain, rather than for the government.

CPP lawmaker Try Cheang Huot declined to comment on the proposed law. CPP officials dominate the government and are able to impose their will when matters of importance arise.

Sok Sam Oeun, president of the Cambodia Defenders’ Project, said that whatever lawmakers and the government ultimately decide to put in the law, he expressed skepticism whether the government would enforce the law – for instance, he doubted whether the country’s top officials would comply with a law that ordered them to publicly disclose their assets and income sources every two years.

The law discussed Friday was an amended version of a draft law discussed in 2003.