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Strong Will, Soft Approach Needed to Battle Corruption, Transparency Advocate Says

Transparency International's World Corruption Map.
Transparency International's World Corruption Map.
PHNOM PENH - The Cambodian government has designated 2013 as the year it will wage a war on corruption, giving some transparency advocates hopes it can turn around a culture of bribery and graft that has hurt development and kept investors away from the country.

Cambodia is one of Asia’s most corrupt countries, sharing company with Burma, Laos and North Korea, and it is among the 20 worst countries in the world, according to Transparency International’s annual index.

Preap Kol, executive director for a Cambodian branch of the watchdog group, said that could change if the government has the will to tackle the problem.

In an interview with VOA Khmer, Preap Kol said he supports the government’s “soft” approach to corruption, which is pervasive at all levels of government, court and administration.

“If we arrest them all, I don’t think there are enough prisons to hold them,” he said. Arrests can be made “step by step” along with other measures, he said, which could deter many officials from partaking in graft.

The government’s Anti-Corruption Unit has so far shown it wants to tackle graft, he said. But more needs to be done, he said. For example, anti-corruption advocates are now urging the government to make public all charges and fees for government services, so that people can pay the right amount without being asked for more.

Corruption can be damaging to all kinds of public life, Preap Kol said.

“Corruption makes the justice system and good governance go down,” he said. “Due to corruption, justice becomes injustice. Corruption not only affects the lives of our people at present, it also robs opportunities from our children.”