Cambodian Opposition Lawmaker Wants Probe of Nepotism Claims


2014-10-28
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cambodia-son-chhay-july-2013.jpg Son Chhay (R), senior member of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, speaks to supporters during a general election campaign in Phnom Penh, July 14, 2013.
AFP

A senior Cambodian opposition lawmaker has lodged a complaint against a high-ranking, ruling-party official in parliament, accusing him of corruption and nepotism, but is frustrated by the lack of response.

Son Chhay, from the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), charged that Mith Karen, parliament’s deputy secretary general and member of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), used his influence to appoint family members to positions in the legislature’s secretariat.

Son Chhay, who is deputy president of the parliament’s Commission on Economics, Finance, Banking and Auditing, submitted the complaint letter to Leng Peng Long, the secretary-general of parliament or National Assembly, on Oct. 21.

“The National Assembly has not taken any action in response to my compliant,” he told RFA’s Khmer Service.

His letter claimed seven of Mith Karen’s relatives were working for the National Assembly secretariat.

He listed them as son-in-law Hang Vicheat, the general director of finance and administration; son Ren Sovana, the deputy director of the finance department; daughter Mith Timean, the internal inspector general; nephew Mith Chanlinda, the inspector director; brother-in-law Hai Semi, a logistics official; ex-brother-in-law Ear Tharady, a personnel director; and son-in-law Tha Lymi, deputy director of the payroll department.

The Phnom Penh Post newspaper quoted Son Chhay as saying that there could be “more than 20” of Mith Karen’s relatives working in the secretariat.

Son Chhay wants parliament to terminate or suspend them from their posts and order an immediate investigation.

He said he planned to submit another complaint to Heng Samrin, president of the National Assembly, this week and also file a complaint with the Anti-Corruption Unit.

“There must be an independent investigation,” he said.

'Conflict of interest'

Son Chhay said this was the first time he had come across a large number of family members of a lawmaker working for the National Assembly.

“This is a conflict of interest,” he said. “It is a criminal act.”

Son Chhay said he uncovered the alleged act of nepotism after he asked parliament’s secretary general for list of staff members and contracts involving the legislature so that he could conduct an audit and take action against suspected nepotistic appointments.

In August, the Anti-Corruption Unit pledged a crackdown on such appointments in government institutions.

Chheang Von, National Assembly spokesman, said he had just returned from abroad and would review Son Chhay’s complaint letter.

Koam Kosal, the parliament’s inspector general, declined to comment on the letter.

Mith Karen could not be reached for comment but told local media that his family members were qualified for the government positions they hold.

Preap Kol, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia, said it was unacceptable to have such a number of family members working in key government positions inside the National Assembly and called for an investigation of the case.

“In Cambodia, it’s commonplace [for government officials] to allow family members to work in the same office,” he told RFA. “[Such people] claim that the practice is implemented in other state institutions, so they think they can do that, too, inside the National Assembly.”

“But it is contrary to the international norm and a conflict of interest,” he said. “It’s not acceptable as far as international standards are concerned.”

Reported by Samean Yun for RFA’s Cambodian Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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