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City court removes director of Centre for Social Development

City court removes director of Centre for Social Development

090710_04
Court officials meet with members of the Centre for Social Development on Thursday to discuss the injunction.

Theary Seng sacked amid claims and counterclaims as officials execute temporary injunction.

CITY authorities have intervened in a long-running internal dispute at the Centre for Social Development (CSD), a local rights organisation, temporarily removing the organisation's executive director following an injunction filed by a long-standing opponent.

On Thursday, officials arrived at the organisation's office to implement the temporary injunction, dated June 16, replacing chief Theary Seng with Vi Huoi, who claims to represent the CSD's board of directors.

"I am responsible for carrying out the preservation warrant to temporarily suspend Theary Seng as CSD's executive director and replace her with Vi Houi," Phnom Penh Municipal Court deputy prosecutor Sok Kolyan told CSD staff and reporters during a two-hour meeting at CSD headquarters.

Competing claims
But amid the claims and counterclaims of Theary Seng and Vi Huoi, both of whom claim the legal high ground in the dispute, it remains unclear who has the right to legitimate control of the organisation.

Representatives of Theary Seng, who has served as executive director of the CSD since 2006, rejected the court ruling, claiming in a press release Thursday that Vi Huoi was part of "an unauthorised group of individuals" attempting to seize control of the organisation.

They also claim a previous attempt to have Theary Seng removed as head of the organisation, undertaken by Vi Huoi in May 2008 and then filed to the Ministry of Interior in August, was rejected by the Ministry as "baseless".

Theary Seng said by email from France that the injunction had come "out of thin air", and that the issue had already been decided by the Ministry of Interior.

"This injunction in effect is an indictment of the authority and mandate of the Minister of Interior," she said.

"This is an issue of harassment and abuse of process and reflects once again the absurdity, the brokenness of the judiciary in Cambodia."

Her lawyer Ang Udom added during Thursday's meeting that she felt "hopeless, concerned and pessimistic" about Vi Huoi's appointment.

"We know very well that he doesn't have enough capacity to implement [his duties] and he is not good at communicating with donors," he said.

But Vi Huoi rejected the accusations, telling the Post that he had resorted to legal action because Theary Seng refused to comply with a 2008 board decision terminating her from her position.

"When the board hired her, she signed a contract, she did not respect it, and she went out and formed a new board, which is not legal according to our Constitution," he said.

He added: "The injunction is a legal issue, and we have to respect the law - the law is above us all."

Chan Soveth, a monitor for local human rights body Adhoc, said the court's warrant appeared to follow the law, but expressed concerns the organisation would suffer as a result of the change in leadership.

"I feel worried that the work will not go smoothly because staffers are not happy with the new board," adding that Theary Seng's absence overseas would only make matters worse, he said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY GEORGIA WILKINS

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