Unidentified men help an official (C) from the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction to hide his face as he enters the Phnom Penh Municipal Court last week. Photograph: Vireak Mai/Phnom Penh Post
Four officials from the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction arrested last week on bribery charges involving millions of dollars would be freed on bail in the next few days, officials said yesterday.
Kuy Bunson, director of the Ministry of Interior’s prisons department, said he had received a letter from Phnom Penh Municipal Court asking him to release the foursome, but had not yet looked at it and declined to comment in detail.
Prey Sar prison boss Sim Leang said he will release the officials after receiving an official request from the prison department.
The suspects – Sa Reth Boramy, deputy director of the land management department; Pho Vuthy and Tuy Lay Rithy, director and deputy director of the finance department; and Meas Ey Sara, finance office chief – were arrested last Monday by the Anti-Corruption Unit for allegedly obtaining US$2 million in bribes for social land concessions.
Rights groups were quick to decry the decision to grant bail as emblematic of a system weighted toward the powerful.
“People who are not civil servants or in line with the ruling party are not allowed to be released on bail,” Ny Chakrya, chief of investigator for human rights group Adhoc, said.
He pointed to the case of Beehive Radio director Mam Sonando, who has not been released from pre-trial detention despite numerous bail requests.
Ou Virak, Cambodian Center for Human Rights’ executive director, called the discriminatory use of pre-trial detention “a sign of a corrupt, partial court”.
“There needs to be a review mechanism by an independent body with an impartial supervisory role,” he said, adding that the Supreme Council of Magistracy is not adequately impartial.
ACU spokesman Keo Remy told the Post that the release is within the court’s jurisdiction, adding that media coverage has undermined the investigation.
Judge Leang Samnath and ACU president Om Yentieng, could not be reached.