The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has dropped a civil lawsuit against Kong Korm, former senior adviser to the Candlelight Party (CP). The case, which concerned a house and land on Preah Sothearos Blvd in the capital’s Chamkarmon district, was dropped after Korm returned the property to the state.

Minister Prak Sokhonn announced the decision in a January 31 letter addressed to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

“The co-defendants had asked for mediation and transferred ownership of the property,” it said.

“The [ministry] has agreed to end the dispute and accepted the original copy of property identification certificate – issued by the Phnom Penh Municipal Department of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction on January 19, 2015 – from the co-defendants,” it added.

On January 12 of this year, Korm and his wife elected to return the land on which they were living to the ministry, along with the hard title on the property.

In a legal declaration of the return, Korm claimed that he had misunderstood the correct procedure for applying for possession of property.

On January 31, he wrote a letter of apology to Prime Minister Hun Sen and the leadership of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). He also resigned from his role as a senior adviser to the CP.

Kong Monika, a senior CP official and the son of Korm, said the withdrawal of the lawsuit had taken some heat off of his family.

“We are confident that the situation will return to normal,” he said.

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan reiterated that Korm’s case was a personal matter and totally unrelated to his political activities. Any allegations that the case was politically motivated were baseless, as were suggestions that the ruling party was somehow able to use the judiciary to pressure its opponents, he added.

“If Korm and his family hadn’t done anything wrong, why would he thumbprint the documents and return the occupied land to the state? This unfortunate case was clearly about Korm’s own failings, rather than some greater machinations,” he said.

Yang Peou, secretary-general of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said the withdrawal of the lawsuit through out-of-court dispute resolution mechanisms was a positive step.

“If we compare the cases of Thach Setha and Korm, they are not the same. Korm agreed to return the land to the state, so the case was dropped. Setha, on the other hand, is still alleged to have issued cheques that bounced, a serious breach of trust.

“The only thing the two cases have in common is that they are both personal issues that certain bad actors appear to be trying to make into political ones,” he added.