PHNOM Penh Municipal Court has postponed a hearing in a case involving one of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s cousins and a former government official, charged with giving and accepting bribes in an attempt to influence the settlement of a land dispute involving 120 families in Dangkor district.
Presiding Judge Duch Kimsorn said more time was needed for investigations, and that the trial would be held on an unspecified future date.
Seng Yean, former deputy general director of inspection at the Ministry of National Assembly-Senate Relations, is accused of accepting US$200,000 in 2008 from businesswoman Di Prem, a first cousin of Hun Sen. The payment was allegedly made to influence the investigation of a dispute over six hectares of land in Kakab commune with local woman Huot Sarom.
Yesterday, Hun Sen encouraged the court to punish his cousin if she is found guilty, and said he had rejected requests by senior government officials to intervene in the case.
“The law is the law and it does not think about relatives. Therefore, I strongly support and encourage the court to continue its work in doing this case,” he said, while presiding over the ground-breaking ceremony of a new overpass project in Phnom Penh.
Hun Sen said Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vathana had submitted a written request to him to drop charges against Di Prem. The letter, dated September 19, claims that Di Prem had only sought to find solutions to the land dispute.
National Assembly President Heng Samrin also wrote to Hun Sen in June of last year asking him to drop the charges against Seng Yean.
Kao Ty, a lawyer for Huot Sarom, who filed the initial bribery complaint, said the court’s delay showed it was hesitant to proceed in the face of pressure from high-level government officials.
“If the court does not drop its charges against them, and takes action through legal procedures, it will be a good start for combating corruption,” he said.
If found guilty, Seng Yean faces between three and seven years jail. Di Prem faces between one and three years.