PM’s edict not ‘interference’: official

Source: The Phnom Penh Post / Fri, 25 March 2016 by

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A house belonging to a soldier on disputed land in Banteay Meanchey as seen earlier this month. Last week, Prime Minister Hun Sen told provincial authorities to ignore a court order to evict the soldiers. RFA

A Justice Ministry official yesterday defended Prime Minister Hun Sen’s decision to tell Banteay Meanchey provincial officials to disregard a Supreme Court court order in a land dispute.

The premier last week slammed the 2011 verdict, which declared Toul Sopheak and her family the rightful owners of a 4-hectare plot of land and ordered that the soldiers living there illegally be evicted.

In a public speech, he said he had told officials, both military and civilian, to block the long-delayed eviction of the soldiers, which was scheduled for March 16, and to review the case.

After seeing the soldiers’ plight on Facebook, Hun Sen said: “I had to take the phone and call to Bun Seng, the [military] head of Region 5 and ask ‘what’s the issue?’ . . . and I called the provincial governor and told him not to implement [the enforcement] . . . and review the case.”

Yesterday, Justice Ministry Secretary of State Ith Rady denied this amounted to judicial inference.

“He did not say not to implement, but he just said to delay,” Rady said.

“Sometimes because Samdech does not know about the case and the cause of the incidents clearly, and because of the verdict’s impact, Samdech just asks for a review to know what and how the case is.

“Interference would only be if he forced the court not to implement [the enforcement] and instead say it must do this or that. But for this case he just requested a review and in order to do this, we need to suspend the case for a while.”

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