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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - ...like leave you on the street

...like leave you on the street

BI-PARTISAN bickering has taken a new twist in a legal tango between Funcinpec's

top woman diplomat and big boys in the Cambodian People's Party (CPP).

The issue is housing, and despite losing a court complaint lodged against her by

CPP, under-secretary of state for Ministry of Foreign Affairs Marina Pok won't budge

from a house which was allocated to her by Foreign Minister Ung Huot (Funcinpec).

"The Second Prime Minister has ordered the court to execute its decision, expel

me from the house and seal it," she declared in the wake of Phnom Penh Municipal

Court's ruling in favor of the plaintiff, Bun Uy, CPP's under-secretary of state

at the Presidency of the Council of Ministers.

"I've not had a single call from any of the ambassadors to see if I was okay,"

said lamented. "These representatives of democratic governments are just silent,

yet they know exactly what's happening behind the scenes."

As far as Pok is concerned, the seven-room villa, located on the grounds of the old

Hungarian embassy at 771 Monivong blvd, belongs to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"When the ministry rents houses to foreign embassies, it doesn't have to ask

permission to do so from the two Prime Ministers," she added. "This is

within the duties and responsibilities of the ministry."

Pok, in defiance of Hun Sen's order to transform the compound - comprising three-buildings

and a swimming pool - into the new headquarters of the National Center of Border

Affairs, has started moving in and appealed the Mar 12 verdict banning her from the

premises.

On Mar 14, the court, however, ruled against her appeal attempt.

"The [Mar 12] order bears immediate effect and disregards the appeal that is

to be filed," according to a court document.

The dispute began when Hun Sen scribbled the following note on the Dec 20 clearance

given by Ung Huot to Pok for her to take up residence at the house: "This house

is to be used as the HQ of the National Center of Border Affairs and cannot be given

for the housing of any officials."

The Funcinpec Under-Secretary of State, who, for the past three years, has stayed

with her parents, claims that she is still the only high-ranking official in her

ministry who has not been given a functional residence.

Pok also alleges that the complaint filed against her by Uy was not in line with

ministerial rules, because First Prime Minister Prince Ranariddh was not asked to

approve the action.

In rebuttal, Uy replies that the Council has primacy over all ministries and their

assets, and that Pok should never have claimed the house for herself, he argues,

unless both Prime Ministers officially took a joint decision on the matter.

According to Uy, as compensation for rejecting Pok's designs on the house, Hun Sen

has offered her a house at the former Laotian embassy on Josep Broz Tito blvd.

Uy added that Pok shouldn't complain, saying she is luckier than other Funcinpec

officials who hold higher ranks.

"For others, personalities in Funcinpec and even CPP, up till now they haven't

been allocated housing," he said.

A closer inspection, however, revealed that the house on offer is currently occupied

by a family of five of modest means, who may actually be squatting there.

In the meantime, it appears that Pok will not settle for anything less than 771 Monivong.

When pressed on why she her mind is set on the residence, she replies: "Don't

you get the point?! Each official in the ministry is entitled to a house. There are

no smaller houses available. Everyone else has a house. Just take a look at Uch Kiman's

house...it is as big as the house at the ex-Hungarian embassy."

As matter of fact, the CPP secretary of state, Pok's counterpart at Foreign Affairs,

lives next-door to the old Hungarian embassy.

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