By Bun Sengkong, Communications Young Professional and Blogger
When I was stopped by the traffic police about three years ago for violating a traffic light and was asked to pay 10,000 riels, I did. I did not understand that I had just “bribed” the police officer. Today I know that under the traffic law I am required to pay only 5,000 riels for such an offense and that what I handed to the police officer was a bribe.
If this happened today, I would do things differently. I would make sure that I pay the right amount and ask for a receipt. That way I know that the money I pay goes to fill the State’s coffers rather than the police officers’ pockets.
Today I know that my “No” counts. It is by taking small but meaningful actions that citizens can change society and curb corruption.
People commit corruption because they think they can get away with it. This is not right and it must be stopped.
It is hard to overstate the effects of corruption on individuals and society. Corruption in the Judiciary may result in unfair judgement in which the perpetrators are not brought to justice and corrupt judges may put innocent people in jail. Corruption in the health sector may result in poor treatment which unnecessarily puts patients at risk and can cost lives. And corruption in education harms not only the current generation but many more to come.
Corruption also prevents Cambodia from reaching its full economic potential by scaring away investors and increases the cost of doing business in Cambodia, thereby slowing down economic growth. And it tarnishes the country’s reputation globally, too.
The more corrupt a country is, the less trust the people have in the government. Corruption hinders the government’s efforts to provide public services and make it hard to lift million poor Cambodians from poverty.
All of us can and should put an end to this practice. Youths, constituting a majority of the population, have a responsibility and power to make a real difference. Their sheer number, energy, and enthusiasm are a catalyst for change.
Corruption is like cancer. People often know its deadly consequences too late. It is no surprise that the most poverty-stricken countries are often the most corrupt. I’m glad to say that it is not too late for Cambodia. It’s time to wake up and take concrete action.
Who says you have to start big? Refusing to pay a bribe and always ask for a receipt when you are fined by the police are simple but powerful steps that you can take. At the same time, we should all arm ourselves with sufficient knowledge to combat corruption in real life. The point being that those ready to commit corruption must not get what they want.
It is often small things that make a big difference. From refusing to pay a bribe to obtain a document to speaking up against grand corruption. I have come to my attention that corruption news often causes a big stir on social media, which suggests that there is hope after all. Cambodia is our country and if we don’t fight for it. Who will?
Bun Sengkong is a communications young professional at Development Innovations. In this capacity he is currently placed as a communications assistant for TI Cambodia. He has a keen interest in Cambodian politics and social media and writes about it on his blog write4khmers. Follow him on Twitter @bunsengkong.