AmCham Hosts Anti-Corruption Forum Highlighting Its Impact on U.S. Businesses Operating in Cambodia

Harrison White

The American Chamber of Commerce Cambodia (AmCham) hosted a comprehensive forum on a critical but intricate issue— ‘Business Ethics and Anti-Corruption: Doing Business the Right Way’. The event drew the participation of a diverse array of stakeholders, including legal experts, government representatives, and business leaders.

Read more: US Senate to debate ‘Magnitsky style’ legislation for Cambodian officials as bilateral trade surges

Ruwan Hulugalle, AmCham Legal Committee Chairman presented his keynote highlighting the necessity for U.S. companies to be especially vigilant in their Cambodian operations due to the applicability of laws like the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and the Global Magnitzky Act. “Given Cambodia’s notably high corruption index, aligning business practices with both U.S. and local laws is not merely advisable, it’s indispensable,” he stated.

Ruwan Hulugalle, AmCham Legal Committee Chairman.

He explained that the FCPA can have repercussions for U.S. companies across borders, making them liable for ‘corrupt’ payments to foreign officials. On top of that, the Global Magnitsky Act, which targets corrupt activities and severe human rights abuses, can further tighten the noose around companies not adhering to ethical standards. Additionally, it should be noted that FCPA does not only apply to US-based persons and companies, but also. foreign companies that are also listed on a US stock exchange.

Corruption Index in Cambodia Is Not Just a Number; It’s A Deterrent

Devin Barta, President of AmCham Cambodia presented a stark analysis of Cambodia’s current corruption index, where it ranks an alarming 150 out of 180 countries. He contrasted this with Thailand and Vietnam, which fare much better, ranking 101 and 77, respectively. “This high corruption index in Cambodia is not just a number; it’s a deterrent for potential investors, and it’s up to us as a business community to change that narrative,” he asserted.

Devin Barta President of AmhCham Cambodia.

Devin also took the occasion to urge Chamber members to be proactive in pushing for transparent business practices. He warned that once a company falls into the trap of bribing, it often becomes a never-ending cycle, with more and more hands stretching out. In the same vein, Yonn Sinat, Vice President of Cambodia’s Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU), suggested that companies set up a Focal Person to liaise with the Anti-Corruption Unit. “The government is open to collaboration for promoting transparency,” he mentioned.

Nearly 150 Mou’s with Private Firms and Chambers

Yonn, also announced that nearly 150 Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) have been signed with private firms and chambers to enhance cooperation against corruption. “The private sector is key in the push for reforms,” Yonn said, adding that achieving critical anti-corruption goals will be a long journey.

Yonn emphasized that education and modern communication tools could play a role in combating corruption. He also cited Singapore as a global model in anti-corruption efforts and mentioned the ACU’s newly released ‘Guidebook on Anti-Corruption Program for Business in Cambodia’ as a valuable resource for companies.

Yonn Sinat, Vice President of Cambodia’s Anti-Corruption Unit.

Dinah Kumar, Country Chair for TotalEnergies Cambodia, provided the business owners perspective on the issue. “We are talking about an industry that is expansive in its scale and implications. Ethical business isn’t just a social responsibility but a business imperative. Companies should vet not just their operations but also those of their partners and suppliers,” Kumar advised.

Due Diligence Is No Longer a Choice but A Mandatory Step

The event concluded with a resounding call for collective action. Devin Barta summarized, “It’s high time we supported the Royal Government in creating a favorable business climate by doing our part in eliminating corruption. The rewards will not only be moral but also financial, in the form of sustainable investments.”

Dinah Kumar, Country Chair for TotalEnergies Cambodia.

Beyond the immediate participants, the discussion’s ramifications are broad reaching. Businesses from around the world, particularly those in the U.S., must heed the advice laid out during this forum. In recent years, several companies operating in Cambodia have found themselves under the scrutiny of the Global Magnitsky Act, indicating heightened U.S. attention on Cambodian affairs. As Hulugalle warned, “Due diligence is no longer a choice but a mandatory step for companies desiring to do business in Cambodia.”

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The event drew the participation of a diverse array of stakeholders, including legal experts, government representatives, and business leaders.