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Stand by me: Son Chhay

Senior Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker Son Chhay arrives at the National Assembly in August
Senior Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker Son Chhay arrives at the National Assembly in August. Chhay is on a lonely crusade to try and root out corruption and nepotism in the legislative body. Heng Chivoan

Stand by me: Son Chhay

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay has called on his party to support his continued efforts to rid the National Assembly of nepotism, saying the job is not his alone.

For the second time in just a few weeks, Chhay on Saturday named employees of the National Assembly’s secretariat that he alleges are family members of its deputy secretary-general, Mith Karen, taking the tally of Karen’s relatives employed by the assembly to 14.

It came as a government spokesman said the matter would not be investigated.

In an email to Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmakers on Saturday, Chhay says the employees include Karen’s sister, brother, son, daughter, niece and nephew.

“Please help by doing something about it,” he urged his fellow lawmakers.

Chhay alleges the family members hold roles ranging from director general of the administration and finance department to chief of the staff department, while one has been suspended.

“I’ve informed all opposition MPs what is going on.… This is not my job alone,” he said yesterday. “But I have not had any public support from my party about this.”

Chhay, the CNRP’s chief whip, publicly named seven of the employees on the list last month when he began a wider campaign targeting “ghost workers” and nepotism among the parliament’s more than 1,000-strong staff.

Soon after, Chhay said he would write to CNRP vice president Kem Sokha, the National Assembly’s first deputy president, requesting action be taken against Leng Peng Long, the parliament’s secretary-general, for withholding civil servant lists.

Sokha, he added, had promised to raise the matter privately with National Assembly President Heng Samrin, to whom Chhay also wrote asking that action be taken.

“But this is not a private matter,” Chhay said.

An assistant to Sokha said he was busy yesterday and advised calling back later. Sokha could not be reached after that.

Yim Sovann, CNRP spokesman and lawmaker, said Chhay did have the support of his party in addressing the matter.

“Why not? We support many investigations into many kinds of corruption,” he said. “It is not just happening in the National Assembly. If people have done nothing wrong, they have nothing to worry about.”

But ruling Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker and National Assembly spokesman Chheang Vun said yesterday that no investigation into Karen’s family members and the nature of their employment would take place.

“There is no law against it,” he said of Karen’s case. “This situation does not mean the National Assembly is corrupt.”

Chhay described Vun’s position as “ridiculous”.

“According to the law, [government] recruiting must have a procedure,” he said. “How did they [Karen’s family] get their positions? Who agreed to it? As a government, if you don’t answer, you will be blamed.”

Karen declined to comment yesterday, referring questions to Samrin or Peng Long. When contacted, Peng Long said that because it was not his job to appoint people to National Assembly positions, he was not involved in the matter.

“I am only an administration officer, so I have no answer for Mr Son Chhay,” he said.

A clean-up of the National Assembly would benefit all, including the government, Chhay said.

“[Nepotism] has happened for a long time in every government ministry. Thirty per cent of expenditure could be saved by fixing this problem.”

In September, a National Assembly official said that less than half the parliament’s paid employees – about 400 to 500 – bothered turning up to work.

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