Sunday,2007-08-12: How Are Illegal Procedures Proceeding – and How to Bring Them to and End

Posted on 13 August 2007. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 520 |

The Mirror, Vol. 11, No. 520

Two major activities of enforcing the law got attention in the media. The demolition of buildings at the Kob Srov Lake, already started on the last day of July, continues to be discussed, and at the end of the week we learned that two fairly high ranking officials at the Council for the Development of Cambodia, and a National Police major who is deputy director of the International Relations Office at the Ministry of Interior, were already arrested during the early days of this month, caught while attempting to commit a crime of extortion. There seems to be widely shared praise for successfully intervening where laws have been violated, and not allowing impunity.

But still – both cases provide reasons for a number of fundamental questions. In the first case, these relate to the observation and application of the law. The second case provokes the question about the general climate related to big business deals and their licensing, in which this criminal act – as far as it is reported – could be prepared and carried out. As for the events at the Kobsrov Lake, at the end, it seems to be very clear: the massive landfill at sections of a lake which is an important natural floodwater storage for the city of Phnom Penh, the construction of a road on the landfill, and the construction of housing, violate not only the law protecting the lake, but it violates also common sense.

But many questions are still open. They are related to the most important question for the public: why this site only, and why now? The building activities of the Long Chhin company have been known publicly, located only 12 km outside of Phnom Penh, they were known also to the authorities. Prime Minister Hun Sen has known about this company not only now, it is said that he and the Council for the Development of Cambodia issued even a temporary agreement for the construction of this development – though “pending certain conditions.” When these conditions were violated months ago, nothing happened. But more importantly, there are press reports that the government provided already a policy for the construction of a satellite city at Tumpun Lake and Choeung Ek Lake in the Phnom Penh area. Are these lakes not also of a similar nature – natural floodwater storage areas – like the Kob Srov Lake? And the plans, supposedly still under discussion and not yet final, to fill in the Boeung Kak Lake to a considerable extent – is this lake not needed to protect Phnom Penh from excessive floods?

As for the events of two fairly highly placed government official being arrested, with the accusation of having tried to extort money from a foreign company, the details are indicative of major continuing problems, even if these two persons have now been arrested. According to the report, the foreign company – its identity has not been revealed in the press conference, where the arrests were announced to the public – was obviously involved in negotiating to pay bribes – also a problem. Probably this is not the only company which came to the conclusion that to do big business in Cambodia, it is necessary to make additional payments outside of the contract they want to receive. The estimations by different institutions, national and international, about the range of corruption suggest such assumptions.

In addition, this is not the only case where the names of high level leaders have been misused illegally by people, trying to trick others. Obviously, such tricks can be played, because people really think that the high level leaders and their relatives will do things for money, apart from following due procedures of administrative processes. To punish those who were caught in committing or in trying to commit extortion by such misuse of the names of high leadership is an important step. Only when it becomes trusted common knowledge that the use of high level names will not help in speeding up standard procedures or the application of regulations and laws, this type of extortions will have lost the basis, on which it now still can be committed.

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