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Groups Want Debate Delayed for Graft Law

A committee of rights organizations is recommending that the National Assembly delay debate on an anti-corruption bill for at least a month, allowing time for the long-awaited draft to be studied before it is passed into law.

“Our recommendations will help promote the effectiveness of the fight against corruption,” Sok Samoeun, director of Cambodian Defenders Project, told reporters Tuesday. “If the National Assembly denies our recommendations, the situation of corruption in Cambodiawill remain unsolved.”

The draft law creates an independent Anti-Corruption Council and an anti-corruption unit under the Council of Ministers. The 11-seat council will consist of political appointees, as an oversight body. The draft also requires public officials to disclose their assets and empowers the courts to seize property and assets.

The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee on Tuesday forwarded its request to the National Assembly, requesting a one-month delay for debate on the bill, which is scheduled for Wednesday.

The coalition requested that the National Assembly open the draft for public debate.

It also suggested that the Anti-Corruption Council to be independent, rather than comprised of political appointees, and for the head of the anti-corruption unit under the Council of Ministers to be separate from the council. The head of the unit should be required to disclose his or her assets, the committee said in a statement Tuesday.

The law needs to be stronger in its protection of witnesses and informants who come forward against corruption, the group said.

“Our recommendation is the main step in fighting corruption,” Ny Chakrya, chief investigator for the rights group Adhoc, told reporters Tuesday. “If the National Assembly passes the anti-corruption law without the NGOs’ recommendations and participation in discussions, this anti-corruption law will be a very weak law, will not have international standards, and will not prevent corruption.”

Meanwhile, 15 opposition lawmakers from the Sam Rainsy Party issued a letter to National Assembly President Heng Samrin requesting a delay for debate until April, after the Khmer New Year.

“We all understand that to solve the high responsibility of the legislature in the anti-corruption law, the National Assembly should delay the special session to debate the draft law,” the lawmakers wrote. The lawmakers requested enough time to study the draft in order to ensure “effective implantation” of the law after it passes.

Cheam Yiep, a lawmaker for the Cambodian People’s Party, said the request for delayed debate had come “too late,” but he promised effective implementation of the law after it is passed.

“This law is under the honor and reputation of the CPP,” he said. “We won’t destroy our honor, prestige and reputation.”