Therefore an indigenous accounting profession did not evolve in this period either and no accounting or audit rules were established" (2000, p. 16). In this free-for-all environment, it is difficult to discern any influence from the French accounting profession, except to the extent that its transactions involved the international community where certain documentary practices must be followed in order to conduct international commerce. For example, according to a contemporaneous analysis of the accounting profession in Cambodia by Steinberg (1959), the National Bank of Cambodia "still uses the French Union Stabilization Fund in Paris as a funnel for many of its foreign exchange transactions; the dollars Cambodia receives under the United States aid program are not kept in the Fund, but are controlled directly by the National Bank" (p. 191). At the time, the Cambodian National Bank's arrangements with the money market in France were administered by the Banque de France which was responsible for clearinghouse negotiations to establish the relationship between the riel and other global currencies (Steinberg, 1959). The French influence in the early part of the 20th century can also be discerned from Steinberg's observation that in 1959, the National Bank of Cambodia "regarded the large franc balance with which it began operations as partly an advantage and partly a weakness because any sudden fluctuation of the franc could importantly affect the backing of the riel" (1959, p. 191). The Cambodian national bank was also compelled to develop at least perfunctory accounting practices to administer the increasingly important flow of minerals and other valuable exports, and the level of indigenous accountancy being practiced can be discerned from Steinberg's report that, "To minimize such vulnerability the bank hopes to build reserves of other transferable currencies -- for example, from an expansion of exports to the dollar and sterling areas. The bank has also bought small amounts of gold; all gold produced in Cambodia must now be sold to the National Bank" (1959, p. 191).
Moreover, besides this French influence at the international level, Yapa (2000) also reports that many French-based companies in Cambodia were following conventional French accounting practices in administering their own corporate affairs until the 1970s. In this regard, Yapa notes that during the period from 1953 to 1970, "The stage the development of accounting in Cambodia would seem to fit the argument about the relationship between the colonial powers and the development of accounting practice" (p. 10). Other indications of the French influence on the accounting profession and practices in Cambodia during this 17-year period include Yapa's report that, "Despite the lack of accounting and auditing standards during this period it seems that a number of French-based and a few other international companies that operated in Cambodia produced and returned their financial statements to their parent company" (2000, p. 10) Nevertheless, these localized protocols did not rise to the level of even a modest formal accounting profession in Cambodia that could be described in the same terms that apply to Western enterprises. In this regard, Yapa also emphasizes that, "Clearly each of these complied with the appropriate accounting standards for their home jurisdiction. There was no evidence of the emergence of a recognisable accounting profession" (2000, p. 10).
In the years that followed between 1950 and the 1970s, Cambodia pursued various economic development initiatives following many conventional policy measures that were commonplace during this period in history, including efforts to develop an accounting profession that was sufficiently trained and educated in accounting to provide the accounting services needed during its post-colonial development (Yapa, 2000). During the period between 1975 and 1979, the Khmer Rouge regime, though, headed by the notorious Pol Pot, murdered or otherwise disposed of the majority of the professionals in Cambodia including accountants, thereby destroying most of the struggling country's social and physical infrastructure in ways that would set the country's efforts to rebuild back for decades to come. Although accountants per se may not have been part of the targeted groups in the genocide that followed, they were an unfortunate part of the other professions that comprised the groups being expunged by the new regime. In this regard, Yapa (2000) emphasizes that, "Cambodia is also exceptional in that it was not an example of unintended slaughter or ethnic cleansing but was an example of the systematic and intended elimination of the educated and the articulate of Cambodian society -- it was class cleansing. Therefore accountants while not being the intended target clearly fitted the target" (p. 3). While accountants may have been just so much collateral damage to the Khmer Rouge, the impact of this ethnic cleansing on the profession would be profound. According to Yapa, "Clearly there was little capacity for accounting as a professional group to exercise a particular elite role within the post-colonial and revolutionary Marxist Cambodia as the greater part of the Cambodian educated and middle class who would constitute a postcolonial elite were killed. Therefore the story the accounting profession in Cambodia is utterly exceptional" (2000, p. 5). This exceptionality together with the paucity of relevant and timely research concerning the precise influence of the French accounting system on Cambodia's accounting profession means that the analysis is constrained in many ways, but this influence was shown to exist at several private and public sector levels during the second half of the 20th century. For instance, Yapa adds that more recently, the goals of the new Cambodian accounting system was "to serve both the need of public and private enterprises in a free-market economy and it was begun in
1993 with the support of the French government through the French National Accounting
Council" (2000, p. 14). Taken together, French influence is discernible throughout the post-colonial period in Cambodia.
Despite a turbulent and violence recent past that destroyed the country's accounting profession and infrastructure during the post-independence years, and being forced to begin from essentially scratch as the years went by, Cambodia today appears to be better situated to join the international community in more meaningful ways in the future. The country has already entered into a number of bilateral and multilateral international agreements that indicate Cambodia's leadership recognizes the need for a well educated and professional cadre of accountants that can help the country achieve its economic development goals. In the final analysis, the accounting profession in Cambodia appears to be ripe with opportunities, but some Western accountants might be nervous about accepting expatriate assignments to this country given its historic treatment of these professionals. Therefore, it is important for the current Cambodian leadership to emphasize the importance of this profession to the country's integration in the international community today and in the future.
Black's Law Dictionary. (1991). St. Paul, MN: West Publishing Co.
'Cambodia.' (2012). U.S. Government: CIA World Factbook. [online] available: https://www.