Corruption is still a key regional issueBy David Swartzemtruber
In Cambodia, the top anti-drug police official in Phnom Penh was sentenced to 12 years in prison for hoarding a supply of illegal drugs and for receiving bribes to let convicted drug offenders skip out of jail.
Not to be out done, Cambodia’s Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation has been told to repay an estimated US$5.5 million it paid to “ghost officials” and used in “irregular expenses”.
Officials were found to have stolen money from the pensions of dead and retired civil servants, but no arrests were to be made at the time, Cambodian Premier Hun Sen said.
Just across the border in Thailand, however, in a public opinion poll 65.3 percent of respondents wanted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to have no involvement in the Cabinet formation because his opponents could stage political turmoil or a coup.
Another reason might also be that during Thaksin’ s previous term six-year term of office, “crony capitalism” was widespread, causing a flowering of corruption starting with the prime minister, himself.
In Thai government, top ministerial appoints are highly coveted as their budgets can be used to siphon funds into private pockets. It’s a worldwide issue, but it seems particularly difficult to combat in Asean.
Cambodia’s initiatives provide ample evidence that effective steps can be taken and the poll of Thai citizens shows there is concern over what personalities will take up ministerial positions.
The results of the recent poll are likely to have little influence on what actually occurs in selecting a new Thai Cabinet, however.
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