Cambodia’s parliament will not investigate opposition charges of corruption and nepotism leveled at a high-ranking ruling party official who allegedly used his influence to appoint family members to positions in the legislature’s secretariat.
National Assembly (parliament) spokesman Chheang Von said there was no legal basis for conducting investigations on the charges brought by opposition MP Son Chhay against deputy secretary general and ruling Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Mith Karen.
“I don't want any nepotism inside the National Assembly, but we don't have any law to prevent such practices,” he told RFA’s Khmer Service on Thursday. “We can't accuse them of corruption when family members work at the same place.”
He said that any probe on such charges can be considered when legislation against nepotism is enacted.
Son Chhay, from the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), said last month that several family members of Mith Karen held positions in the legislature’s secretariat due to his influence.
He submitted a complaint letter to Leng Peng Long, the secretary-general of parliament, on Oct. 21, requesting that the services of Mith Karen’s family members be terminated or they be suspended from their posts pending an immediate investigation.
In his complaint, Son Chhay, who is deputy president of the parliament’s Commission on Economics, Finance, Banking and Auditing, listed seven of Mith Karen’s relatives who worked in the National Assembly’s secretariat, including his son and daughter who both hold senior positions.
Chheang Von said that if there were enough evidence of corruption, parliament would create a committee to investigate, but such a decision could only be made by the assembly’s president.
He accused Son Chhay of violating a truce between the CPP and CNRP not to attack each other politically following a July compromise between Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy.
Son Chhay, however, denied that he had breached the truce, telling RFA on Friday that parliament had to investigate the case if it wanted to prove that the legislative branch was a clean institution respected by voters.
He had discovered the alleged act of nepotism after he asked parliament’s secretary general for a 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 country’s Anti-Corruption Unit pledged a crackdown on such appointments in government institutions.
“This is not about civil servant status, this is about corruption in an institution,” Son Chhay said. “If there is an irregularity, there must be an investigation. They are recruiting family members to manage the assembly budget.”
Son Chhay conceded that he could pursue the matter no further because only the president of the National Assembly had the power to order an investigation.
“I have completed my task,” he said. “I can’t force anyone to do it. The voters will judge this matter.”
Reported by Samean Yun for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.