North Korea in 2018 was ranked as the most corrupt country in Asia with the closed communist nation receiving one of the worst scores in Transparency International's (TI) corruption index.

Despite showing a slight improvement in its corruption score in 2017, North Korea's ranking fell from 17 in 2017 to 14 in 2018.

The North ranked 176, tied with Yemen in the survey by the Berlin-based organization. The two countries were beaten out for the most corrupt nation in the index only by South Sudan, Syria and Somalia.

This drop in score appeared across the board in Asia, with China, Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia dropping between 1 and 3 points from the previous year. Only Laos is able to say it isn't getting worse. The Southeast Asian country scored 29/100 for the second consecutive year.

In its analysis of the Asia-Pacific region, TI highlighted Vietnam as a decliner, scoring 33, down 2 points from 2017.

Vietnam has taken a strong approach towards prosecution and punishment of corrupt individuals over the last few years, the report said.

Strong enforcement efforts are only part of a comprehensive and effective anti-corruption strategy. In addition, weak democratic institutions and few political rights cast serious doubts on the fairness of the arrests and prosecutions in the country, the report added.

It cited recent scandals in which Vietnamese government officials were bribed by companies in return for development assistance or government contracts.

Corruption is much more likely to flourish where democratic foundations are weak and, as we have seen in many countries, where undemocratic and populist politicians can use it to their advantage, said TI's chair, Delia Ferreira Rubio.

Her comments could be applied to the situation in Cambodia, ranked 169thoverall, with a score of 20, down one point from the previous three years.

In response to the report, the Cambodian Council of Ministers' spokesperson Phay Siphan said that it disregarded Cambodia's improvements in poverty reduction, economic growth, improved wages for civil servants, and good investment environment.

He said Cambodia is working to stamp out corruption according to UN recommendations, not TI's.

There are plenty of fake reports. This is a fabricated report, so we don't accept it, he said.

As a government, we do not work for a good [ranking on a] report. We work based on our potential to reduce poverty and promote accountability and transparency. Let the people judge us, he said.

For the entire Asia Pacific, the report said that with few exceptions like New Zeland and Singapore, most of the countries in the region were failing to effectively fight corruption.

The report recommended that a diverse strategy to tackle the problem would be necessary, because no single solution would eliminate it entirely, especially in areas where it is deep rooted.

While some countries captured by an undemocratic political elite or institution may make small strides against corruption in the short-term, they cannot fight corruption effectively in the long-term, the report said.

The report suggested that in the long term only democracies have the necessary checks and balances to effectively battle corruption, saying only small strides in authoritarian countries are possible. These are dependent on the attitude and mood of dictators, according to the report.

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