PHNOM PENH —
An anti-corruption advocate says Cambodias no longer regard corruption as an everyday occurrent they must tolerate.
“Cambodian people today have changed their attitude of ignorance to paying attention to corruption because they now understand its impacts more than before,” Preap Kol, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia, told “Hello VOA” last week.
Cambodia was listed as the most corrupt country in Southeast Asia last year, according to Transparency International’s annual index, which measures perceived corruption. And a recently released survey by the US-based International Republican Institute found that nearly 50 percent of Cambodians view corruption and nepotism as serious problems facing the country.
“This is a message to leaders of the country and political parties that the Cambodian people no longer accept corrupt practices as a normal way of life,” Preap Kol said.
Cambodia introduced a long awaited anti-corruption law in 2010, aiming to reduce its deeply-rooted corruption. But critics say it still has a long way to go. And many Cambodians must deal with corruption every day, at all levels of government and public service.
Srey Veoun, a caller to the “Hello VOA” show, said garment employers are still complaining about having to pay money under the table to the government, a barrier for them to increase the wages of workers.
“Whenever representatives for the employers come to negotiate with striking workers, they say that if the workers can get rid of the under-table corruption, they would be willing to pay the workers the demanded wages, ” she said.
Corruption extends beyond factories and into the everyday lives of people, she said. “Even with the identity card provision service, which is supposed to be free, people in my village have to pay $5 each to get it,” she said.
“This has become a habit of the current administration officials,” a caller named Chenda said. She had been forced to pay $150 for a new passport recently, $30 more than the official fee. “How can corrupt officials be punished?” she asked.
“Cambodian people need to challenge any intimidation made by the authorities,” Preap Kol said.
Citizens must dare to demand information, he said. And if they are suspicious of being extorted, they can call the government’s Anti-Corruption Unit, at 1282, or his organization, at 1292 or 7777, free of charge, so that they can avoid becoming victims of corruption.
“Cambodian people must partake in changing these habits, so that we can achieve a clean society,” he said.