Thursday, August 18, 2005

Cambodia to upgrade three local border gates

Phnom Penh, August 18 (VNA) – The Cambodian Government has decided to change the status of three local border gates to Viet Nam.

According to a notice sent by the government to the Ministry of Home Affairs on August 18, the T’ropeng Plong border gate in Kompong Cham province and the T’ropeng Sre border gate in Kratie province will become international gates, while a local border gate in Chrey Thom district, Kandal province, will become a border gate shared by Cambodia and Viet Nam.

Cambodian customs officers said the move will help facilitate official trade between Cambodia and its neighbouring countries, and also strengthen the control of immigration activities of tourists.-Enditem

Cambodian Anti-Graft Body Must be Free of Political Influence, US Official Says

Cambodia must keep a planned anti-corruption agency free of political influence if it expects it to have credibility, a senior U.S. diplomat said Wednesday.

Mark Storella, acting head of the U.S. Embassy in Cambodia, made the comment at a government workshop to discuss long-awaited draft legislation to fight endemic corruption in the impoverished Southeast Asian nation.

"If the anti-corruption body is seen as under political influence, then it may also be seen as a political tool. If that is the case, rather than fighting corruption, the body could be seen as corrupt itself," Storella said.

Cambodia loses an estimated US $300 million to $500 million annually to corruption, according to a study prepared for the US Agency for International Development last year.

International donors—who pledged $504 million in aid to Cambodia last year—have linked the disbursal of funds to the country's adoption of an anti-corruption law and an agency to enforce it, as well as other reforms.

Donors have warned that the size of assistance may be reduced in the future if Cambodia fails to deliver on the promised reforms.

The proposed Supreme National Council Against Corruption will investigate allegations of impropriety in public agencies. It is unclear when it will be set up, however.

Storella described the independence of such a body as "fundamental," referring to widespread concerns about political influence in Cambodia interfering with key institutions such as the judiciary.

"Ultimately, corruption is not just a matter of economics or law, it can also pose a threat to stability," he said.

Government officials and representatives of private groups and donor organizations are attending the workshop, which runs through Thursday.

The participants are expected to suggest amendments to the draft law. It is not clear when it would be submitted to parliament for approval.

In his opening speech, Prime Minister Hun Sen said his government is serious about combating corruption—a promise similar to ones he has made in the past.

"(It) undermines confidence in investment ... and thwarts poverty reduction programs," he said.

Cambodian PM reaffirms determination to combat corruption

PHNOM PENH, Aug. 17 (Xinhuanet) -- Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday reiterated that combating corruption, in all forms, is a firm commitment of the government.

The premier made the remarks at the seminar on Draft Law on Anti-Corruption.

"The effect of corruption that we should not overlook is the lost of public confidence in the government which is a cause to weaken national unity and impede economic development," Hun Sen said.

"Corruption undermines confidence in investment, obstructs sustainable development and thwarts poverty reduction program," hesaid, adding "In short, corruption is the key constrain in development and poverty reduction that is the fundamental policy of the current government."

At the same time, the premier acknowledged that the government had not obtained "expected result in fighting against corruption."

The Draft Law will be consulted and debated at the two-day seminar attended by about 200 national and international experts, law makers as well as experts from countries that have tremendous experience in combating corruption.

Aspects of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption andAnti-corruption Action Plan for Asia Pacific were included in the draft law.

In order to wipe off corruption, to bring justice to society, to achieve value of democracy and to promote law and judicial reform, the Cambodian government has exerted utmost efforts in creating laws to be approved, according to Hun Sen. Cambodia so far has 203 laws and plans to add some new laws in the future.

The Cambodian government vowed to approve the anti-corruption law this year. "To free society from corruption, I believe that weneed good laws and good governance both in public management and private business," the premier stressed. Enditem