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Release of jailed official illegal: State

Initial investigations indicate that officials at Ratanakkiri provincial prison acted illegally in temporarily releasing a jailed ex-police chief on Friday night, an Interior Ministry official said yesterday.

Disgraced former Ratanakkiri police chief Yoeung Baloung – who was sentenced to 13 years in prison in 2006 after being convicted of involvement in illegal logging – allegedly injured three people in a drunken car accident on his way back from a party.

Reports have varied as to the reasons for Yoeung Baloung’s release, but Liv Mauv, deputy director of the Department of Prisons at the Ministry of Interior, said there was “no clear evidence” a court had granted permission for the release.

“It was against the law, which states that the release of an offender must be made according to a court’s judgment,” he said.

Pen Bonnar, provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, has claimed that Yoeung Baloung was released from prison so he could attend a party in O’Chum district.

The release of an offender must be made according to a court’s judgement.

Liv Mauv said provincial prison officials had sent his department a report claiming that Yoeung Baloung was granted permission to leave the prison for two hours on Friday at the request of his family.
According to provincial prison officials, Liv Mauv said, Yoeung Baloung was ill and his family wished to hold a healing ceremony for him.

Claims have been made that, during his release on Friday, Yoeung Baloung drunkenly crashed into three people on a motorbike who were rushed to a hospital in Vietnam with serious injuries.

Provincial traffic police have denied Yoeung Baloung caused the accident, claiming that the driver involved was Katreng Lounh, the 33-year-old husband of Yoeung Baloung’s niece.

Sok Vuthy, an uncle of the victims, said yesterday that the police reports were inaccurate.

“Yeoun Balung was driving alone when the accident took place and his family promised to pay us compensation within three days,” he said.

Sok Vuthy called for the dismissal of provincial prison Director Ngen Nel, who could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Pen Bonnar also called for the dismissal of other prison officials involved with the release, as well as traffic police who he accused of “producing a false report” about the identity of the driver involved in the accident.

Liv Mauv said he did not know if officials at the provincial prison would be punished, citing ongoing investigations.

Provincial prosecutor Leav Sreng said yesterday that he was also investigating the case.

“We are not calling only prison officials for questioning but all involved parties,” he said.



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