Deputy governor, tycoon charged over bribery case

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Oknha Sorng Thorn. Fresh News

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has charged Battambang provincial deputy governor Sou Arafat with bribery along with his alleged accomplice Oknha Sorng Thorn, a private landowner.

The corruption charges, which were investigated by the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU), are centred around 5,000ha owned by Thorn at Koas Krala district.

Court spokesman Kuch Kimlong said deputy prosecutor Soeun Moniroth charged Thorn on two counts – intentionaly causing damage and unlawful exploitation, and giving bribes – following a day of questioning.

Arafat faces charges of intentional destruction, assault and bribery.

“The cases for the accused have been sent to investigating Judge Im Vannak,” Kimlong said.

Thorn, who occupied the 5,000ha or roughly one-quarter of the Koas Krala district, was taken into custody on June 27. Arafat, also the head of the commission on land dispute resolution in Koas Krala district was taken to the ACU headquarters in Phnom Penh on the night of July 1.

On June 27, Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a sub-decree terminating Mao Sokchan as Koas Krala district governor. It is unknown if his termination is connected with the case.

Transparency International Cambodia executive director Pich Pisey applauded the ACUs actions and called it the next step in better executing the law.

“We want to see the ACU continue to take action against officials who commit corruption … in the small and big cases.

“If there is any suspicion of corruption, we encourage implementing the law equally, whether it is high-ranking official, lower officials, rich man or poor man,” he said.

Pisey said Cambodia is still in a bad situation and corruption – small and big – is still happening every day.

He urged the government and ACU to educate the public and take action without exception. If possible, there should be amendments to some articles, he said.

“Citizens want to report corruption, but they are hesitant because the law states that action can be taken against them if their report is found to be wrong,” Pisey said.