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Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Lawmakers Select Two Anti-Corruption Representatives

The National Assembly and Senate established their representatives on a new anti-corruption council on Tuesday, voting respectively for Top Sam and Prak Sok, two members of the Constitutional Council since its 1998 inception.

Now the two men, who must be finally approved by the king, will be a part of the 11-member National Anti-Corruption Council, which prepares strategies and policies to fight graft under a new law passed this year. The council also makes recommendations to its counterpart, the Anti-Corruption Unit, which is in charge of enforcing the policies.

Top Sam, who is 63, was a secretary of state for the Ministry of Commerce until 1998. Prak Sok, who is 67, was a judge and deputy chief of the Supreme Court until he joined the Constitutional Council.

Both men welcomed the news on Tuesday.

“I am very happy to get the new job, and I am committed to doing my best to fulfill my new job strongly and effectively,” Prak Sok told VOA Khmer Tuesday.

But critics say they doubt the men or the new council will effectively combat Cambodia’s corruption, often blamed on government officials within the ruling party.

“We don’t believe in the independence or effectiveness of the representatives of the National Assembly and the Senate in fighting corruption in Cambodia, because the two men come from the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, and the two will get pressure from the ruling party before deciding any case,” Mam Sitha, director of the Anti-Corruption Committee, a non-governmental organization, said Tuesday. “The council can decide on small corruption and not powerful corruption, and they cannot decide on the main power behind the corruption.”

Son Chhay, a lawmaker for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, said Tuesday the two legislative candidates do not have experience investigating corruption. “But we will follow up on their work,” he said. “I’m not interested in the history of Prak Sok and Top Sam, but I am more interested in the willingness of the government to fight corruption.”

Pen Thol, a member of the Constitutional Council who worked with the candidates for the past six years, said both had good relationships with the seven other members of the Constitutional Council in working groups. They were both effective decision-makers and worked hard on decisions by the council, which examines election complaints as well as constitutional matters, Pen Thol said.
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No Injuries Reported in Brief Border Clash

A Cambodian soldier carries a B-40 Rocket Launcher as he headed to the tent near the Famed Preah Vihea at the Cambodian-Thai border in Preah Vihea Province, a bout 245 Kilometers North of Phnom Penh

Cambodian and Thai troops engaged in a brief exchange of gunfire on Tuesday, but neither side reported injuries.

The clash, which began just before 10 am in the Dangrek Mountains of Oddar Meanchey province, lasted only five minutes, said Chhum Socheat, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, who blamed the exchange on a “misunderstanding.”

“The soldiers of Trapaing Prasath district were patrolling, and they met accidentally with Thai soldiers who were on patrol as well,” he said. “Both sides opened fire.”

Chhum Socheat said the Thai soldiers likely thought they were firing on illegal loggers, not soldiers. Commanders on both sides were already discussing the issue, he said.

Cambodia and Thailand have both amassed troops along the northern border, following the inception of Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site under Cambodian control. Both sides lay claim to land near the temple, fueling a standoff that has gone on since July 2008. Sporadic clashes have left a handful of killed soldiers on each side. The latest clash took place in O’smach district in April, though no one was hurt.

A Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman said Tuesday the Thais had not yet verified reports of the engagement.

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