Local politician caught in the crossfire

Source: Phnom Penh Post |Thu, 22 September 2016, by and

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Sreng Sokhoeun, the wife of a jailed Sam Rainsy Party commune chief, late last month recounts the day her husband was arrested at the family’s home in Kampong Cham. Hong Menea

In April this year, Srok commune chief Seang Chet got a call from his district superior asking him to come to the Kampong Siem district office to sort out a dispute – sewage was running through someone else’s yard, he was told, according to his wife.

It was just the kind of neighbourhood problem the father of five was good at handling. Since being elected in 2012, the Sam Rainsy Party member had won the admiration and respect of even some local CPP supporters, who, though wishing not to be named, were among villagers who described the local official as “friendly” and “generous”.

The problem for Chet, however, was there was no local dispute waiting at the nearby office.

Instead, the commune chief found himself confronted by officials from the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU).

“The next time I saw him was [at the ACU] in Phnom Penh,” his wife Sreng Sokhoeun recalled at the family’s home last month.

“He told me to take care of the children. That was the last thing he said.”

Chet has now spent almost six months in detention for allegedly offering a $500 bribe to the family of hairdresser Khom Chandaraty – the purported mistress of CNRP deputy president Kem Sokha – to lie about her alleged affair with the opposition leader.

On Tuesday this week, Chet burst into tears when meeting with opposition officials at Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison, according to one of the lawmakers present.

“He said he wanted to be free and see his family, especially because of Pchum Ben,” lawmaker Keo Phirum said.

“He’s done nothing wrong, but still he is kept in Prey Sar. The court has already decided about the sentence for Kem Sokha, so he and the other human rights defenders, they should not be kept and made to spend their days in jail.”

According to his lawyer, Sam Sokong, the investigation into the case concluded two weeks ago, though a trial date had not been set. He was not hopeful that case would be dropped, given its political nature.

“They will not drop the charge,” he said.

His case is one of several aggressively pursued by the ACU who, along with officers from the Interior Ministry’s anti-terror police, investigated the opposition leader’s alleged affair, which came to light via covertly recorded telephone conversations leaked online.

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Seang Chet (centre), a commune chief of the Sam Rainsy Party, leaves the Phnom Penh Appeals Court in July after a hearing. Pha Lina

Together with Chet, four workers from rights group Adhoc and a former member of the organisation turned election official have been detained for a separate case of so-called bribery.

Meanwhile, two opposition lawmakers face “prostitution” offences, while Sokha himself was on September 9 sentenced to five months in prison for refusing to submit to questioning over the case, which has been widely slammed as a political attack via the courts.

Since reversing her story, admitting to the affair and implicating Chet and the other defendants – a U-turn that followed authorities accusing her of prostitution – Chandaraty, also known by her nickname Srey Mom, has gone to ground.

Speaking from their home, less than 100 metres from Chet’s house, Chandaraty’s mother, Sean Hoy, a 58-year-old farmer, claimed she had not heard from her daughter since seeing her in Phnom Penh in March.

“I just want to know she’s OK,” the mother of four said, saying she had no idea whether her daughter was involved with the opposition leader.

Hoy said there was no ill will with Chet’s family, who were in fact in-laws. She recalled being called to the commune chief’s house by his wife, Sokhoeun, who offered the money and mentioned it could help her daughter go abroad for a while to escape the growing heat of the investigation.

But she refused, explaining: “I did not know where the money came from, so I did not dare to take it.”

Back at Chet’s home, after giving a similar account of the five-minute meeting, Sokhoeun repeated the opposition’s claim: that the money was from donors abroad who, sympathetic to Chandaraty’s plight, wanted to help. “There were no conditions,” Sokhoeun said.

She said that since Chet’s imprisonment, the family’s finances have suffered, explaining they were struggling to meet hefty repayments on a loan to buy two trucks, used for the family’s trading business. “Please help get his freedom,” Chet’s mother, Youn Sim, 74, said, grabbing a reporter’s hand.

Around the commune, while many said they had no opinion on the politics behind Chet’s case, there was general agreement that he was sorely missed in his role as chief.

Recalling Chet had helped oversee road and irrigation projects, Chea Horm, a member of the local pagoda committee, said the official had never asked for any money to process documents, a claim backed up by several residents interviewed.

“When he is not here, the villagers miss him,” Horm said.Farmer Oun Ath said Chet had helped pay for her father’s funeral went he died unexpectedly last year and had also donated food and water, something the local official also did when 34-year-old En Chan’s mother passed away. “No one dislikes him, and when poor people go to his house and ask for rice, he would give them five to 10 kilograms,” Chan said.

Sitting outside her small wooden home, 38-year-old potato farmer Mov Theng said she hoped Chet would still be chief if he was released. “I don’t care if he’s in jail, I’ll still vote for him,” she said.

Local politician caught in the crossfire

Vietnam-bound trucks full of firewood seized

Source: Phnom Penh Post |Thu, 22 September 2016, by

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Authorities stand next to a truck in Tbong Khmum province yesterday after it was seized for illegal transportation of lumber. Photo supplied

Tbong Khmum provincial military police officers yesterday arrested six people and seized two trucks that were allegedly transporting firewood to Vietnam, according to gendarmerie spokesman Eng Hy.

Hy said the group was busted in the morning in Memot district’s Triek commune while headed for the border.

“[At this stage] we do not know how much wood, but the cars planned to go Vietnam on [September] 21 at about 2am. We have sent [the suspects] and the cars to the provincial Forestry Administration.”

Reached yesterday, Tbong Khmum provincial Forestry Administration chief Kim Chhunly said his office had received a report about the bust, saying it appeared the wood was being transported through the province but had been cut in Kratie province.

“We arrested them because they did not have permission [to transport the wood] . . . They will have to pay a fine and then we will release them.”

While the timber trade to Vietnam generally centres around luxury species that fetch high prices, smaller-scale logging for things like fuel has also been blamed for the Kingdom’s rampant deforestation.

The government announced a blanket ban on timber exports to Vietnam in January in a bid to stop smuggling, however, reports from activists and evidence including import data from Vietnam suggest the trade continues.

Vietnam-bound trucks full of firewood seized

Kratie disputants pay visit to ministry

Source: Phnom Penh Post |Thu, 22 September 2016, by

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A representative from Kratie province talks to the media yesterday at the Ministry of Land Management. Pha Lina

Twenty Cham villagers from Kratie province’s Snuol district yesterday visited the Ministry of Land Management and Urban Planning to demand authorities resolve their community’s seven-year-old land dispute with two rubber companies.

Representing 136 families, the group said they were following up on a complaint lodged a month ago with the ministry, in which the villagers demanded action to regain 525 hectares they say was grabbed and cleared by two firms, Ratanak Sdown and Therak Investment Company, in 2009 – 12 years after the community says it moved to the area.

“We came to find out whether the minister has taken action with the province or not, because people keep waiting for a solution from the ministry and the province does not solve the problem,” said community representative Chan Yong.

Ministry official Heng Saran, who met with the villagers, reassured the group that the ministry was working on their case, which would be solved “soon”, he said.

Reached yesterday, Provincial Governor Sar Chamrong said he had received a letter from national authorities asking him to resolve the case and was drafting a report in response.

Kratie disputants pay visit to ministry

Cambodian rails linked to Thailand’s

Source: Phnom Penh Post |Tue, 20 September 2016, by

The long-awaited railroad between Phnom Penh and Bangkok moved one step closer to completion yesterday after tracks on the Cambodian side were connected to those in Thailand.

The Poipet-Phnom Penh rail line was joined to the Bangkok-Sa Kaeo line during a ceremony at the international border checkpoint, said Sun Chanthol, minister of public works and transportation.

“Now we have connected our railway with Thailand’s railway and we will continue to renovate our railway as soon as possible in order to open the line between Cambodia and Thailand at the end of this year or early next year,” he said. Continue reading “Cambodian rails linked to Thailand’s”

Cambodian rails linked to Thailand’s

Boeung Kak activists found guilty

Source: Phnom Penh Post |Tue, 20 September 2016, by and

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A supporter holds an image of Boeung Kak lake activist Tep Vanny during a protest at Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday. Hong Menea

Four Boeung Kak lake activists were convicted and sentenced to six months in jail yesterday for their roles in a 2011 scuffle with security personnel outside City Hall, a ruling defence attorneys insisted was accompanied by a glaring lack of evidence.

The four – Tep Vanny, Bo Chhorvy, Heng Mom and Kong Chantha – were found guilty of insulting and obstructing public officials as the “ringleaders” of the nearly five-year-long protest. Chantha was found guilty in absentia. Continue reading “Boeung Kak activists found guilty”

Boeung Kak activists found guilty

Two Months to Claim Land Certificates

Source: Khmer Times | Mon, 19 September 2016, by Pech Sotheary

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Residents of Chroy Changvar stage a protest over the OCIC development. Supplied

City Hall said villagers affected by the development project of the Overseas Cambodia Investment Corporation (OCIC) in Phnom Penh’s Chroy Changvar district would have two months to claim the certificate of land policy before it would stop assuming responsibility for losses, according to a statement released yesterday. Continue reading “Two Months to Claim Land Certificates”

Two Months to Claim Land Certificates

Farmers Protest Rice Prices

Source: Khmer Times | Mon, 19 September 2016, by Ros Chanveasna

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Farmers hold a sign asking the government to help increase the price of rice. Supplied

As rice farmers continue to feel the pinch of this year’s drop in prices, dozens protested in Battambang province yesterday, dumping sacks of recently harvested rice into the middle of National Road 5 and causing extensive traffic delays. In recent years, farmers have received about 800 riel (about $0.20) per kilogram of unmilled rice, but this year the price has fallen to about 600 riel, leaving many to complain that the price is too low to support themselves and pay back farming loans. Continue reading “Farmers Protest Rice Prices”

Farmers Protest Rice Prices