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Friday, August 24, 2007

On FOI, Australia far from perfect but....

Rick Snell, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday sounded a real note of optimism about the prospect of the Cambodian Government not only embracing Freedom of Information, but also being prepared to consider progressive concepts that the Australian Government hasn't yet contemplated.

I'm not sure what the Cambodian experts would say about this. One Cambodian American friend of mine who has worked in international affairs for more than thirty years at the School of Advanced International Studies at the Johns Hopkins University and in international organisations, has read the article. He describes the Cambodian Government as "murderous and corrupt" and completely under the control of Hun Sen, with a statute book of laws that sound impressive but have never been implemented.

Rick is no doubt aware that the President of the World Bank has just given the Cambodians a stern warning about corruption, and that Prime Minister Hun Sen has "angrily denied" allegations of fraud and corruption with World Bank funding. Cambodia was ranked 151 among 163 countries in Transparency International's 2006 Corruption Perceptions index

I think Rick's comparison of the Cambodian and Australian position on FOI is a bit rough, given the fact that the "progressive" draft FOI policy is yet to be considered at the top in Cambodia, the law is yet to be passed and their track record on implementation of even basic democratic laws and rights is pathetic. While things here are far from perfect it will be amazing if Cambodia, under the present regime will get within cooee of transparency standards of any government in Australia.

Interest in FOI would have to form part of a much bigger picture to be taken seriously in Cambodia.

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