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building damage
A crack runs across the wall of a house in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district yesterday, in a residential building that neighbours with So Sovannary’s property. Vireak Mai

Land official accused in construction feud

A complaint lodged with the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) alleges that a high-level planning official in Phnom Penh has been illegally building a house that has caused damage to neighbouring buildings, and used his influence to override a court order for construction to stop.

The complaint was lodged by Yi Soksan, a land activist with rights group Adhoc, who alleges Phnom Penh Cadastral Department deputy director So Sovannary has been building the house next to his own in Daun Penh district’s Chaktomuk commune, causing his own property to crack and collapse in several places.

“He has used his power as deputy director of Phnom Penh Cadastral Department and built his house illegally,” says the complaint filed to the ACU on May 20.

Sovannary could not be reached for comment.

Soksan claims Sovannary originally received permission to construct a three-storey building on the plot in 2005, however that licence expired before construction began. According to the complaint, Sovannary nevertheless began construction of a five-storey building two years ago.

According to Soksan, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court passed a ruling to prevent the construction on March 23 after he had filed a complaint. However, less than a month later, on April 21, City Hall agreed to extend the permission originally granted to Sovannary in October 2005, apparently ignoring the court’s ruling.

When officials from the Daun Penh district joint commission then attended the site on May 11, ostensibly to ensure the court ruling was being enforced, they took no action when they found the building to be under construction.

“They work in cahoots. I would like the ACU to check these irregularities,” said Soksan.

ACU chief Om Yentieng could not be reached for comment.

In a letter to the court responding to Soksan’s original complaint, Sovannary’s wife Meas Tonny, who is listed as an owner of the property, blamed Soksan for any damage that had occurred. In the letter, she alleges the pair paid Soksan $350 for damages to the toilets of his property, but that any new damage was the result of him not having the repairs done.

“If the wall and beam are cracked, I am not responsible because it was caused by the collapsed toilets that he has not fixed,” said her letter, dated March 2.

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