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Rushed Graft Law a Sham: Opposition Leader

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy on Monday lambasted the country’s new anti-corruption law as a sham, saying those who commit graft in the country will never be jailed for it.

The law, which took 15 years to draft and less than a week to approve, will not have the teeth necessary to rein in Cambodia’s rampant corruption, Sam Rainsy said, as a guest on “Hello VOA.”

The requirement for public officials to disclose assets will be done with a “closed envelope,” Sam Rainsy said, making it more likely that those who seek the information will be punished before corrupt officials.

Officials who “can’t declare where the assets have come from, that should be from corruption and it should be paid back to the nation and the people,” Sam Rainsy said from France, where he remains in exile, facing a jail sentence in Cambodia.

Assets should not be declared secretly, he said.

“We should do it in a transparent way, to let the people know, and see that before [an official] took office, [he or she] was poor, but after taking office for some years became a millionaire,” he said. “That means [the official] committed corruption while in office.”

Anti-corruption legislation was passed by the Senate last week and has been sent to the Constitutional Council, where it must be approved before moving to the king to be signed.

Implementation is not expected until late 2011, when a new criminal law comes into effect.

The anti-corruption law has worried opponents, who say it does not provide enough protection for whistleblowers and will not create anti-graft bodies with enough independence.

Cheam Yiep, a lawmaker for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, said having a law was a first step.

“If there’s a stalemate in future implementation, we can make amendments,” he said by phone as the show was underway.

Cheam Yeip said the law creates an independent council and puts decisions in the hands of judges.

However, speaking to VOA Khmer ahead of the show, Ny Chaya, chief of monitoring for the rights group Adhoc, said the law will not effectively prevent graft and does not protect those who would report it.

“If the court sees that there is no corruption, then those who are whistleblowers will be charged and imprisoned,” he said. “That would make the whistleblower unable to give information, as the judicial system in our country is not credible.”