“Before, when they gave me 5,000 riels, I took it, but now I don’t do that anymore”. These were the exact words Sok Chanthy said regarding the thank- you money she was usually offered for issuing a birth certificate in the past. In 2014, Sok Chanthy, First Deputy Commune Chief in Tropang Sangkae Commune, Chhuk District, Kampot Province, was assigned to participate in a training on good governance and anti-corruption, which was organised by CWDCC and funded by Transparency International Cambodia. She described the training focusing on transparency and good governance as relevant to her role and daily work.
After attending this training, she and her team as well as people in the commune had changed their attitude toward corruption remarkably. She said that she had realised and stopped committing corruption, and she understoodgood governance well. She added that she found it easier now to explain the terms of good governance and corruption to the villagers, while she did not dare to do so in the past because she herself did not understand them clearly.
With poor living conditions, Chanthy always accepted 2,000 riels or more from people who came to have marriage certificates, birth certificates or other documents issued. However, after the training, she stopped taking such money. As an example, a woman who was still recovering from childbirth and whose husband had gone to work in Thailand came to get a birth certificate issued for her newborn child at the Commune Hall. Having sympathy for her, Chanthy prepared the birth certificate and brought it to the woman’s house. Chanthy was offered 5,000 riels by the woman, but she rejected it despite the woman’s insisting that she accept it. It was not only Chanthy, but one of her colleagues who did not attend the training, who also stopped taking unofficial payments from people. Her colleague also displayed a list of public service fees at the corner of her desk after she learned about the public service fees and law on anti-corruption from Chanthy.
Another remarkable change resulting from her participation with CWDCC was the increased awareness of people in Tropang Sangkae commune related to the public service fees. Chanthy and her team worked with CWDCC to disseminate information in three different villages about administration fees for public services, telling people to pay correct official fees and ask for a receipt for any fee paid.
During her three mandates in Tropang Sangkae commune, she noticed that in the last two years, around 70% of 1,062 families had an increased understanding of public services, compared to the past which was less than 50%. She continued that 5 out of 10 people depended on a middleman to help obtain a public service for them, which caused them to pay more than the actual service fee. However, now 8 out of 10 come to get administrative services by themselves. The increase in people’s awareness of public services was mainly due to the efforts of Chanthy and her colleague.
Chanthy stressed that, “transparency and good governance cannot be achieved by the action of one person alone but the collective action of everyone around us.” Her strong commitment and understanding of the law, which she received from the training, are the main motivation that has changed her mindset toward corruption. Chanthy stated that if a society had a corrupt leader, nothing would be improved, but if we all had a commitment to do good deeds, our society would become better.