An Oddar Meanchey prosecutor has denied allegations by a disabled veteran and his wife that the court colluded with a two-star general to falsely arrest and detain the couple over a land dispute.
The complaint filed by former soldier Thim Chhorn, 54, and his wife Nheb Pov, 44, with the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) requests the matter be investigated.
The Along Veng couple allege that an Oddar Meanchey provincial court prosecutor and a judge, Try Sophort, colluded with two-star major general Tes Sam Ath of the Ministry of National Defence to unjustly jail them.
“[We] were arrested on December 17, 2019. I was released on bail on March 4. A hearing was held on June 10.
“The court announced a verdict on June 17 dismissing my claims and instead ruled on a defamation claim against me. The court ruled that my wife and I have to pay $5,000 in compensation,” Chhorn said.
Provincial court prosecutor Kong Ratana told The Post on Tuesday said the defamation case was filed by Sam Ath whose reputation was damaged when the couple filed a complaint with the Ministry of National Defence.
“The complaint was not true. The statements by the couple were incorrect. The prosecutor and the judge have not committed any wrongdoing against the accused,” Ratana said.
He said the case arose because the couple slandered the plaintiff in their complaint.
“That is why the plaintiff [Sam Ath] filed a countersuit in court. We have never known the two-star general. As long as he files a complaint with the court, we move to work on the case. Our side has nothing to do with this officer,” he said.
Ratana said the provincial court decided the case. If a party can’t come to terms with a ruling it has the right to appeal.
The couple said in their complaint that in 2002, they and a group of 12 families were hired by Sam Ath to clear 220ha of state forest land for private ownership in two locations in Lomtong commune’s Lomtong Chas Village.
Sam Ath allegedly told them to clear forest to take state land and divide it among each other. The general guarded the forest against rangers and environment officials, the complaint said.
Chhorn said he paid each family three jerrycans of petrol, two sacks of milled rice and 400,000 riel per hectare to log the forest. However, before the forest was completely logged, the families requested the land be divided, but Sam Ath refused.
“In 2014, Sam Ath even threatened my family and tried to shoot my family, but the gun failed to go off,” Chhorn wrote in the complaint. He claimed Sam Ath had the land title processed in secret and sold the land.
Sam Ath, 48, holds the office of a two-star general and has served at the Ministry of National Defence. He is a resident of Trapaing Brei commune’s Apivath Village in the district. He could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
The ACU could also not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
Chhorn said in the complaint that he expects ACU chief Om Yentieng will launch an investigation into the case and dispense justice to his family.