Prime Minister Hun Sen requested that the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) launch an immediate investigation into “falsified” real estate titles belonging to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, claiming that they were forged by veteran politician Kong Korm, currently a senior adviser to the Candlelight Party (CP).
The premier requested urgent measures in a social media post on January 12.
“In order to accelerate the fact-finding process about the forging of documents to privatise land and house titles, I request that the ACU immediately investigate these irregularities and take further legal action as necessary based on the findings,” he said.
Hun Sen said the land and home occupied by Kong Korm belongs to the foreign ministry, and that they shall be returned to the government via means in compliance with legal procedures.
Hun Sen took to Facebook the previous day warning Korm to return the house and land to the state within one month.
“In order to avoid the consequences of a lawsuit and legal action, the government will take action to lay claim to the house and land . . . As a leader in power over 44 years since 1979, let me warn Kong Korm to return the house and land to the ministry. Kong Korm stayed and falsified the ownership for personal reasons. I give him a month, starting from January 11, 2023,” he warned.
Korm could not be reached for comment on January 12, but the previous day, he wrote a letter to local online media outlet Fresh News clarifying his position.
Korm said in the letter that he had occupied the house ever since he returned from his post as Cambodian ambassador to Vietnam in 1984. In 1990, he held an ownership certificate issued by the then-Phnom Penh People’s Committee. The certificate was signed by then-Urban Planning and Construction director Sin Sok and had the approval of the committee chair, He Kan.
In 2015, Korm took ownership of the property.
“I remember when I decided to move into this house, I informed the minister and he approved it,” the letter stated in referrence to Hun Sen, who was serving as foreign minister at the time.
Incumbent foreign minister Prak Sokhonn filed a complaint to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court against Korm on January 11, seeking a return of the house and land to the ministry as well as $1 million in compensatory damages.
Senior CP official Kong Monika – the youngest son of Korm – said on January 12 that given the present situation, his family and the party could not yet react to the complaint.
Royal Academy of Cambodia secretary-general Yang Peou said that though the lawsuit was brought against Korm ahead of the July election, the legal aspects and facts are separate from political life. He said Korm has already acknowledged that he has occupied the house and land that belongs to the foreign ministry.
“We think that as a strategic technique ahead of the election, it was not wrong and it was not right completely, as the CPP needs to clear its name. If others attacked and criticised the CPP and the party did not clarify the legal aspects, it seems that the party accepts the criticism of other political party politicians. I don’t refer to Kong Korm,” he added.
Yang Kim Eng, president of the People’s Centre for Development and Peace, told The Post that politicians should consider seeking solutions according to the laws and abide by legal principles.
In order for politics to be competitive, transparent and honest, the politicians need to have mutual understanding even though they have different political viewpoints and ideas.
“For this problem, I see that although it is tied to politics, there should be a common solution for the nation, though the solution concerns security and land management issues and national resources. A political party should have solid evidence to buttress their argument,” he said.