PHNOM PENH - Government officials have dismissed a corruption report by Transparency International, which found that Cambodia is perceived as the most corrupt country in Southeast Asia.
Cambodia ranked 160th of 175 countries on the index, an annual measurement of perceived corruption of countries worldwide that is supported by major international agencies.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan said the report did not reflect “reality” in Cambodia.
“This report is not a scientific study, but is based only on the tendencies of this organization,” he said. “I do not mean that Cambodia is corruption free, but we are ready to fight it. If we look at income per capita, economic stability and infrastructure, we see how progressive we are.”
Cambodia has long been viewed as a country with endemic corruption, from the lowest levels of local governance to the highest officials in power.
Allegations of corruption plague the courts, have hampered the efforts of the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal, and can make simple acts like getting a birth or wedding certificate an expensive affair. USAID estimates the government itself loses half a billion dollars per year to the practice.
Om Yentieng, head of the government’s Anti-Corruption Unit, declined to comment on the report. The unit recently filed complaints against three low-ranking officials in two separate cases of bribery and fraudulence.
Phay Siphan said the government has “legal mechanisms to address corruption.”
“And we have punished those who commit corruption,” he said. “We also have increased transparency in public services and raised people’s awareness for active participation in anti-corruption.”
However, critics of the government’s anti-corruption efforts say they have only targeted certain individuals, and have not been broad reaching or uniform.
“Corruption is becoming worse, and it is a major reason behind the poverty of millions of the population,” said Yim Sovann, a spokesman for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party. “A large part of the state’s income flows into the pockets of corrupt officials through non-transparent financial management and inequitable distribution of resources.”