Tuesday, 15 March 2011 21:25Vong Sokheng
The National Assembly will convene on April 1 to discuss amendments to the Kingdom’s Anti-corruption Law, including a proposed change that would make the Anti-Corruption Unit’s annual budget at the discretion of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Under Article 16 of the current law, the ACU’s budget is packaged with that of the Council of Ministers. Cheam Yeap, senior lawmaker from the Cambodian People’s Party, said the proposed amendment would divorce the unit’s funding from the Council of Ministers, allowing Hun Sen to funnel money into the ACU as he sees fit.
“I think that the contents of the law will be revised, but it depends on the actual debates by parliamentary members,” said Cheam Yeap. “We hope that the change will not take much time.”
Son Chhay, a lawmaker from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, said today he hadn’t received any documents regarding potential amendments, but questioned how the body could remain independent if the proposed amendments were approved.
“I think the independence of the ACU does not mean the body is controlled by the prime minister or government institutions,” he said.
“The body must be away from the government; otherwise powerful officials associated with the prime minister would not be subject to investigation when they are suspects for investigation.”
The Anti-corruption Law has come under criticism from opposition parties and rights groups since it was passed in March 2010.
SRP Spokesman Yim Sovann has said it would become “a law defending corruption”.
International watchdog group Global Witness said the legislation “will not stop high-level offenders”.
But in the past year the ACU has carried out a series of high-profile probes, including the arrest of former anti-drug official Moek Dara, who was charged in January with both corruption and drug-dealing.
Critics, however, have charged that the ACU might target officials who run foul with the ruling CPP.
“The message of using one or two people to scare the rest is not going to work,” Son Chhay told The Post in January.
He said today that the Sam Rainsy Party “will wait to see [the proposed amendments]” before making judgment.