The Kandal Provincial Court has disputed claims that an Australian Christian missionary who has been placed in pre-trial detention on a fraud charge had been unjustly imprisoned.
According to the provincial court file, Martin Chan King Wai and his wife Kim Jung Young were charged in December 2018 with fraud in relation to a school project in Kandal province’s Takhmao town.
In January 2015, Kim and Martin contracted PHV Construction Co Ltd to build a school worth $2.9 million in east Prek Hou village in Takmao town’s Prek Hou commune, according to lawyer Touch Thirith’s legal document obtained by The Post on Sunday.
In February 2016, the document said, Kim halted the project, with the company receiving only around $900,000.
The construction firm then filed a lawsuit against the pair, who then represented the charity His International Services, for halting the construction project “without a reason”.
Martin was placed in pre-trial detention on November 15 last year after being arrested on a court warrant for repeatedly failing to appear for questioning, while his wife has since fled to Australia.
If found guilty, both face up to three years in prison and a fine of up to six million riel ($1,500) under Articles 377 and 378 of the Criminal Code.
Martin has filed a complaint to the higher court appealing his detention.
On Friday, Kim told Australian-run ABC News that her husband was being held unjustly.
“Martin was just a volunteer to oversee the project. He did everything but he was not paid as a volunteer,” Kim was quoted as saying.
Kim alleged that the case against her husband was an “injustice” and the charges are “made up”.
Provincial court spokesman Sou Sarin rejected the claims, saying it was being handled as per legal procedures.
“Now we have sent Martin’s case to the Appeal Court. We don’t know yet about its decision. International media coverage and claims of injustice are just one-sided. It’s up to the Appeal Court to decide on the matter,” he said.
Last month, news of Martin’s detention also drew criticism on social media, prompting the provincial court to issue a press release clarifying the case.
“Claims that a foreign national who has been trying to help Cambodian children has been unfairly imprisoned by the provincial court do not reflect reality.
“The [pre-trial detention] is meant to ensure that the accused is readily available to face trial in future hearings before the court decided on a verdict,” the press release said.