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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Asset freeze ‘not serious’

Suy Sophan, president of Phan Imex, talks at an event in 2010 for evicted families
Suy Sophan, president of Phan Imex, talks at an event in 2010 for evicted families. The government has asked for Sophan’s assets to be frozen due to oustanding payments. Heng Chivoan

Asset freeze ‘not serious’

Land rights advocates and evictees are calling on the government to be more aggressive in its pursuit of four prominent business owners whose assets the Ministry of Economy and Finance has asked the National Bank of Cambodia to freeze over outstanding payments for land swaps involving state-owned property.

The ministry requested the somewhat unusual step on July 22, explaining to the bank that Suy Sophan, the president of development company Phan Imex; Phou Sivkhen, president of Golden Century Import Export Co Ltd; Ngin Mono, president of construction firm Mono Ratanak; and Norng Savuth, president of Sovann Vathanak, are all in delinquency.

However, according to Chan Soveth with the rights group Adhoc, “freezing is not serious”.

“They should not just freeze the accounts until they pay,” he added. “They should investigate in depth.”

Sophan, whose company Phan Imex is responsible for the notorious Borei Keila eviction in 2012, owes money to both the Ministry of Information and the Ministry of Public Works, though the land swaps are not related to the Borei Keila dispute.

Sivkhen has yet to pay for a swimming pool and hotel in Battambang province formerly owned by the Ministry of Interior, while Mono is behind on payments for the city’s Monorom Hotel as well as for a swap with the Ministry of Defence in which the tycoon bought a medicine warehouse, according to the letter. Savuth, the ministry claims, never paid in entirety for the former antique department of the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts.

“The ministry will inform and ask for you to reopen those accounts when the parties pay the debts and fines to the government,” the letter reads.

Chea Serey, the director-general of the National Bank of Cambodia, and Minister of Economy and Finance Minister Aun Porn Moniroth, who signed the letter, did not pick up the phone yesterday.

Contact information for Sivkhen, Mono and Savuth could not immediately be located.

Most of the ire, however, was focused on Sophan and Phan Imex.

Chhay Kimhorn, representative of the Borei Keila community, said she was “delighted” to hear about the action, but said it wasn’t enough.

“We do not just want to see her assets frozen, but we also want to have her imprisoned” she said.

Sophan did not pick up the phone when called yesterday.

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