Opposition leaders and human rights workers urged the new National Assembly and cabinet to pass a long-awaited anti-corruption law, claiming prior promises by Prime Minister Hun Sen have not been kept.
In speech to his new cabinet Friday, Hun Sen said fighting corruption was a “high priority” and the government was “strongly committed to develop and adopt this law.”
But critics said Tuesday they had heard such commitments before, in many speeches and in promises to donors.
“The government leaders…have no will and not enough determination to prevent corruption,” Yim Sovan, a Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker and former head of the National Assembly’s inspection committee, said Tuesday. “Their promises are only on paper.”
The ruling Cambodian People’s Party relies on corruption to support it, he said, and so is unlikely to push for its elimination.
“We have little belief in Hun Sen’s promise to pass the anti-corruption law,” he said.
The anti-corruption law, which was first proposed by the opposition in 1998 and was drafted by Ministry of National Assembly Relations in 2006, is under review at the Council of Ministers.
Drafts of the law have been kept from the public, and it is unclear what provisions it might include to curb the practice of government malfeasance.
“If the government breaks its promise to pass the anti-corruption law, the Human Rights Party will repeatedly make demands on the government day after day when we join the National Assembly,” HRP President Kem Sokha said.
Cambodia is perceived as the 14th-most corrupt country in the world, according to surveys by Transparency International, and officials say the practice costs the country up to $500 million per year.
“The anti-corruption law must come out soon, to show transparency and confidence for the new government,” Ny Chakrya, chief investigator for the rights group Adhoc, said Tuesday. “The anti-corruption law does not need to wait for another law to support it.”
Hun Sen has said the anti-corruption law must be passed after the penal code, which is in the process of being drafted by the Ministry of Justice.