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Groups Prepare Complaints for New Corruption Investigators

At least three local organizations say they are preparing a stack of complaints of graft and misdeeds for submission to the new national Anti-Corruption Unit.

Fourteen members of the unit were sworn in on Tuesday, vowing to uphold an anti-corruption law that was passed earlier this year.

The complaints, which will be the first test of the Anti-Corruption Unit, encompass allegations of corruption within the police and courts and in illegal logging and land disputes.

San Chey, the Cambodian coordinator for the regional Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, said he had 60 complaints of tax agents demanding excessive fees for vehicle taxes.

“All the complaints have the names and IDs of corrupt tax agents, and in each complaint there are about five to 15 complainants,” he said. “All the complaints will be submitted to the Anti-Corruption Unit in late September to stop and punish corrupt tax agents.”

The most serious complaints are of tax agents in the provinces of Kampong Cham, Kampong Speu, Kandal and Takeo and will be a “test” of the Anti-Corruption Unit's willingness to tackle the problem, he said.

“The Anti-Corruption Unit is starting its work,” he said. “We want to see the 2010 annual tax collection for all vehicles have transparency and be a good example in the fight against corruption.”

The National Resource and Wildlife Preservation Organization, which monitors natural resources and human rights, will also lodge a complaint accusing 241 people of illegal logging in Kampong Speu's Oral National Park.

Chea Hean, the director of the organization, said he was preparing even more similar complaints for officials and park rangers in Koh Kong province's Botum Sakor National Park and Kampot province's Bokor National Park.

“I'll lodge these complaints with the Anti-Corruption Unit to create more investigations, because I've lodged them with the Koh Kong and Kampong Speu provincial courts...but the courts did not take action,” he said. “If we gather the evidence and the Anti-Corruption Unit cannot find corruption, I won't have faith in the government institution.”

The Cambodia Independent Anti-Corruption Committee will also file a complaint over a 5-hectare land dispute in Phnom Penh, the committee's president, Mom Sitha said.

Yet more civic groups have complaints to file, said Chan Soveth, an investigator for the rights group Adhoc. However, many are waiting because they do not have faith the Anti-Corruption Unit is politically neutral, he said.

“The ACU officials were sworn in as corruption investigators, but they have not sworn to withdraw from the [ruling Cambodian People's Party] yet,” he said.

Om Yientang, a senior government adviser and the head of the Anti-Corruption Unit, said he welcomed the complaints, provided they contained enough evidence.

“We can investigate all kinds of complaints,” he said.