“Cambodia transitioned from command economy to free market capitalism in the 1990s. Political and economic activities intertwine: greed and self-interest are seen as legitimate, and informal social relations underpin the economy”.
Cambodia’s Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) does two things effectively. 1) Rigorously investigating opposition leader Kem Sokha for extramarital dalliances and gifts to his mistresses. 2) Ensuring that the sons of Om Yentieng, the head of ACU, have secure jobs in Government. Meanwhile, four Ministers charged anonymously with nepotism and misuse of funds have been cleared of all charges. At Government insistence, the corruption law does define ‘corruption’. So, charges can be vague and variable, posing a greater threat to opposition legislators than to corrupt officials. Systemic factors in the neo-liberal model of capitalism, into which these countries emerged, influence corruption. What crimes are prosecuted, and which criminals are investigated, is decided in a mutually re-enforcing field of self-interest and State–business interdependency. Greed and cronyism go hand in hand with raising GDP and personal wealth. When logging tycoons and corrupt officials go uninvestigated, despite evidence, to whom do the benefits accrue? Case studies point to capitalist elites and state officials embroiled in crony capitalism, both flaunting accountability. In 2016 officials were caught embezzling funds from the National Malaria Centre through mosquito net companies. No one was prosecuted despite the case involving bribes. Large businesses, like the big pharmaceutical companies supplying medication through the National Malaria Centre, can expect to profit from corrupt practices with impunity. Improving the situation in Cambodia requires closer inspection of the larger systems in which corruption operates. What we see reflects the global economy: it is the ruthless execution of a zero-sum economic game being played the world over.