CAMBODIA’S Justice Ministry has ordered an investigation into the actions of a controversial provincial judge accused of various improprieties – including using a pickup truck that the courts had seized as evidence in a murder case.
Under questioning from opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua Monday, Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vathana told parliamentarians he had ordered inspectors to probe whether Ratanakkiri provincial court Judge Thor Saron had used confiscated property for his own personal use.
“I think it could be illegal if [Thor Saron] used it for his personal use,” Ang Vong Vathana said.
Thor Saron was accused of using the truck after a trial over a 2007 robbery that resulted in the deaths of two people.
Contacted by the Post Monday, Thor Saron said he “borrowed” the vehicle for both personal and professional purposes.
Thor Saron said that he and a court prosecutor used the truck, but often to conduct legal business.
“If I ride by myself alone, it is for individual use,” he said. “But we also used it for transporting criminals to the courts and to prison.”
The judge said that for now he has stopped driving the truck, which is now gathering dust in a warehouse.
“Since there is a problem, I stopped using it, and now I will leave it as evidence,” he said.
Mu Sochua said she was pleased the minister had addressed her issue.
However, she wondered if the judge would face the full power of the law.
One legal observer said it’s likely the judge was technically not breaking the law, if only because there isn’t a specific rule on the books banning such behaviour.
“It is not illegal because the law does not state it, but it is not fair,” said Sok Sam Oeun of the Cambodian Defenders Project. “Property should be left as evidence.”
Thor Saron has sparred frequently with human rights advocates who say he has harassed rights workers in the province, including threatening Adhoc activist Pen Bonnar with charges of defamation, incitement and terrorism if he remained in Ratanakkiri.