By Chak Sopheap
Published on UPI Asia, May 27th 2009
Niigata, Japan ? Corruption exists in all countries, but has the most destructive effect in developing economies. In a poor country like Cambodia, rated as a highly corrupt state, it threatens democratic institutions and fundamental rights and freedoms. It undermines socioeconomic development and deepens poverty. It also provokes irrational decision making, disrupts the development of the private sector and undermines sustainable development of the environment.
It?is even worse when a vital branch of the government, the judiciary, and its affiliate academic institution, the Royal Academy for Judicial Professions,?is corrupt.
Ongoing corruption allegations against the Khmer Rouge Tribunal are still blurred, yet there?is no adequate mechanism to respond to this situation. Claims that corruption should be a separate?issue if the tribunal?is to proceed make no sense, as one of the core expectations of the tribunal?is to strengthen the rule of law.
Another recent allegation has claimed that corruption affects the securing of admission to the Royal Academy for Judicial Professions. The two cases are crucial and related, because if young professionals in the judiciary resort to bribes, then it?is bound to affect the court system as a whole. The protracted corrupt behavior seen at the very basic judicial level leaves little hope for improvements in the country?s court system.
However, the corruption case involving the academy was resolved in court and a senior student who took the bribe returned the money to the student who was promised a seat in Class Five of the academy. The court case proved that corruption exists in the system. It should be noted that the senior student was not solely responsible in this case, but the student who paid the bribe also abused the law and can be said to be involved in the corruption.
Corruption must be clearly defined and interpreted so that it can encourage people in reporting potential cases. The involvement of the court in settling the case related to the academy?is a good example of a corruption suit being lawfully settled, but impunity still persists within the system. Cambodia does not have adequate anti-corruption laws, which clearly state the terms of punishment.
The concerned institutions and stakeholders should not ignore corruption allegations and must carry out sufficient investigations. It?is not surprising that most of the concerned and responsible stakeholders harshly deny accusations instead of exploring the evidence and cooperating with other agencies, like the media.
The recent denial of corruption by a leading government lawyer to the well-known Voice of America, which was reporting on an alleged corruption case,?is one of the worse scenarios where the press?is silenced and government claims of fighting corruption are undermined.
In Cambodia corruption continues partly because the people see it as something ?normal? that most are unable to change. Besides, there?is a lack of political commitment to encourage people to speak out against it and hold authorities accountable.
Although Prime Minister Hun Sen has declared “war” on corruption and an anti-corruption law has been proposed, with recent promises that it will be adopted soon, questions still linger on how soon and effective it would be.
The government thus needs to show its real commitment to an anti-corruption campaign and encourage a culture of mutual collaboration with the civil society instead of immediate denial and manipulation of charges. Also, people?s attitude toward corruption needs to be changed so that it will no longer be tolerated.