Corruption or Incompetence? Or Both?

This is a headline from February 21, 2020 in which the newspaper reports that there are no ghost workers, i.e., people on the government payroll who don’t actually do any work.

This is a headline from February 24, 2020 in which the ghost workers are admitted. Given that the prime minister’s “official” salary is $4,000 per month (Ha!), recovering $1.7 million seems to indicate there were a LOT of ghost workers.

The country of Cambodia is good, the people are wonderful, but the government is corrupt and incompetent.

How would you call it?

Notice the headline: “Hun Sen” is the actor. It’s not the Ministry of Health or the government or port officials that let the passengers disembark from the cruise ship MS Westerdam in the Sihanoukville harbor after it was denied docking rights in other countries because of fears of the COVID-19 virus. It’s Hun Sen, Cambodia’s prime minister, who claims credit. He makes the decision and the Post dutifully applauds him as a good government newspaper should. Isn’t that one of the marks of a certain governance style that centers on one all-powerful person?

Shoot the Messenger!

After the most recent examination to select students for training for Cambodia’s judiciary, 50+ students complained that there was corruption in the exam process, and that more than $2 million in bribes [“hiccups”?] was paid to get good scores. That’s not a surprising claim in Cambodia where there is constant buying and selling of government favors, civil service positions, etc., by corrupt officials.

And here’s the way the government typically responds:

Transparency International in their latest report described the kingdom as “highly corrupt” and ranked Cambodia at 162nd of 180 countries. That was a drop of one place from last year’s report. This year’s report noted: “Key structural and systematic reforms–in particular with regard to strengthening rule of law and justice–have made little to no progress.”

It would seem that if the country year after year scores so low on the corruption index the government might acknowledge there could be something wrong and address the problem. Instead the government spokesman dismissed the report as “just an advertisement of NGOs to promote their own interests.” Ahhh…the Kingdom of Wonder….

So he says….

Hun Sen is the prime minister of Cambodia and has been since 1997. He is the longest-serving head of state in Asia and everything–good and bad–in Cambodia can be attributed to him. One wonders what he means when he avers he will never sacrifice the national interest. The prime minister has his hands deep in the pockets of China and so he has to go wherever China goes. The Chinese set up huge gambling operations in Sihanoukville and took over everything. A newspaper article reported that 90%+ of the businesses in Sihanoukville are now Chinese owned and half the population is Chinese. That’s in Cambodia’s national interest?

Disgusting, Shameful

“…Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his Republican caucus opted, in an outrageous dereliction of duty, not to hear from further witnesses, thereby continuing the effort to suppress the facts that began when Trump ordered members of the executive branch not to cooperate with the House inquiry.

If Republican senators were so concerned, as they have repeatedly claimed to be, about the lack of direct evidence, why in the world would they vote against summoning Bolton and other witnesses who spoke directly to the president? The only possible answer: Their priority was to protect Trump (and their own political fortunes), not to establish the truth.”

~ Los Angeles Times editorial

Slow going…

At the end of the year, many organizations, government offices, and NGOs reported their activities for 2019. CMAC (the Cambodian Mine Action Centre) reported that they had cleared more than 36,000 mines and UXOs in the year just ended. (UXO=Unexploded Ordnance). The front-page article above explained that 67 square kilometers of land had been de-mined. It then restated the government’s commitment to completely clear the remaining mine-contaminated 2,100 sq km by 2025! Having cleared only 67 sq km in 2019 and 72 sq km in 2018, that seems like an impossible goal! (As a footnote to this situation, remember that these mines were put down 35-45 years ago! Mines are insidious and rightfully banned by most of the world. The US is one of the few nations that has refused to sign on to the ban-landmine treaty.)

Integrity? No….

“I solemnly swear (or affirm) that in all things appertaining to the trial of _ , now pending, I will do impartial justice to the Constitution and laws, so help me God.”
— oath required of senators by Senate Rules in Impeachment Trials

“There will be no difference between the president’s position and our position as to how to handle this…We’ll be working through this process… in total coordination with the White House counsel’s office and the people representing the president in the well of the Senate… There is no chance the president is going to be removed from office.”
— Sen. Mitch McConnell

~ from