With the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) set to arrive in Cambodia in early 2023 to assess the government’s efforts to stop money laundering, Minister of Interior Sar Kheng said he regarded it as a prime opportunity for the Kingdom to get itself removed from the grey list of countries at high risk for money laundering.

Sar Kheng was leading the 5th meeting of the national coordinating committee on anti-money laundering and financing of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, held in Phnom Penh on November 17.

Also in attendance were Minister of Justice Koeut Rith; Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Dith Tina; Minister of Post and Telecommunications Chea Vandeth; Hun Manet, Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF); Anti-corruption Unit head Om Yentieng; and representatives of relevant institutions.

The meeting was held to discuss the outcome of the decision made by the general assembly of the FATF – an intergovernmental body set up to develop policies to combat international money laundering and the funding of terrorism – on the 10th round progress report submitted by Cambodia and to establish the Kingdom’s work direction for January 2023 so that the country could be removed from the grey list in the near future.

Sar Kheng said that based on primary reports he has received from the National Bank of Cambodia and others, Cambodia submitted its 10th round progress report to the FATF prior to the deadline and it highlighted substantial progress that has been made since the 9th round report.

He added that the report had demonstrated good progress which was similar to the 9th round progress report.

Citing the FATF general assembly on October 21, Sar Kheng said Cambodia had fully implemented all of the remaining FATF action plans and had decided to allow the FATF to assess their case in January 2023.

He said he appreciated the efforts and cooperation of the national coordination committee, which he chairs, and the campaigns of all relevant ministries and institutions that have actively worked day and night until they achieved positive outcomes.

“We decided to allow the FATF to make an on-site visit to Cambodia.It will be a golden opportunity for Cambodia to be removed from the grey list. That’s the last goal of the mission of the national coordination committee,” Sar Kheng added.

He continued that the upcoming visit by the FATF is the last stage within its procedural framework before Cambodia is removed from the grey list.

Yang Kim Eng, president of the People’s Centre for Development and Peace, agreed that the FATF’s visit in Cambodia to assess its money laundering progress represents a good opportunity for the Kingdom.

However, he cautioned that if Cambodia was not ready for their visit, then an opportunity will be turned into an embarrassing failure, so the authorities must be certain to follow all of the FATF recommendations and requests diligently.

“Though we may get off of the grey list soon, we must remember that if we allow the same problems to return, then the grey list will come back to Cambodia one day,” he told The Post.

He continued that Cambodia must have a fervent and lasting commitment to ensure that the problem will not occur under any circumstances in the future in order to safeguard the wellbeing of Cambodia’s economy and attract international investments from businesses instead of criminals.

Cambodia enacted the Law on the Prevention of Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism on June 27 after it was placed on the grey list by the FATF earlier in 2019 and listed by the EU as a financial-risk state in May 2020.

Consisting of nine articles and 47 chapters, the law was designed to toughen measures against money laundering in Cambodia, a crime that saw an increased rate of incidence in the Kingdom, along with human trafficking, following the transformation of Sihanoukville in the coastal Preah Sihanouk province into a casino-resort hub.