The deputy chief of the NGO December Second, Yon Sothy, is photographed after his arrest in Preah Sihanouk province.
The deputy chief of the NGO December Second, Yon Sothy, is photographed after his arrest in Preah Sihanouk province. Photo supplied

NGO worker swindles land-dispute victims

A local NGO worker was arrested on Tuesday in Preah Sihanouk province for allegedly misrepresenting himself as a land deal broker and taking advantage of villagers involved in a land dispute for personal profit.

Kol Phaly, deputy provincial police chief, said suspect Yon Sothy was the deputy chief of December Second, an NGO that primarily worked to help victims of land disputes.

“Around 174 villagers filed a complaint against him. Now we have already sent him to the provincial court,” Phaly said.

Governor Yon Min said Sothy took between $500 and $1,000 from each family involved in the dispute, promising to give them land in exchange.

“I ordered the provincial police to arrest him . . . He presented himself as having authority to allot land to the people . . . He used my name for a long time. He lied to the villagers, [claiming] that he gave me the money,” Min said.

Min added that he would report the issue to the Ministry of Interior.

“Now we are preparing the documents to terminate that NGO,” Min said, adding that the NGO was appropriately registered. “We are not sure whether it was just an individual person who committed this action, or the NGO institution . . . It’s connected to the deputy, so we will terminate,” he said.

Keo Somony, deputy prosecutor, said the investigating judge has ordered Sothy to be put in pre-trial detention, but did not know the charges.