Despite a request to postpone questioning until after June’s commune elections, prominent Cambodia National Rescue Party commune official Sin Chan Pov Rozet was summonsed to court for the second time last week, this time as a suspect for allegedly obstructing the implementation of a Battambang Provincial Court decision in a land dispute case.
In December, the court found in favour of police officer Sao Buntith, who claimed that his grandmother had lent land to a commune chief in 1984 to build a kindergarten. When villagers protested a court order to hand back the land in mid-January, Buntith lodged a complaint against them.
Chan Pov Rozet, O’Char commune second deputy commune chief, was summonsed to testify on April 20, but at that time was not named as a suspect. In response, she sent a request to the court, which was not granted, to postpone questioning until after next month’s commune elections. Chan Pov Rozet said last month that she attended the villagers’ protest but only to monitor the events.
According to a second summons on May 8, which Chan Pov Rozet posted on her Facebook page yesterday, the CNRP candidate is suspected of “obstructing the implementation of the court decision” and is expected to appear on May 23.
Prosecutor Chan Soyutheara could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Chan Pov Rozet said yesterday that she was surprised to be a suspect in the case but said she would appear in court despite the fact that doing so will interfere with her campaign.
“If a people’s representative observes whether actions by the court officials are implemented, and that makes the representative a suspect, I believe that none of the representatives of the people dare to serve the people anymore,” she said.
Meanwhile, police official Buntith repeated his earlier claim yesterday that he had not lodged a complaint against any specific individuals but only a general complaint about obstruction of the court order.
One of the protesters, speaking on condition of anonymity, said yesterday that Chan Pov Rozet did not participate in the protests. “She did not join [the protests], and we also did not ask her to help us either,” the person said.
The protester also said Chan Pov Rozet was summonsed alongside five others who had ignored an initial summons.
Yin Mengly, Battambang coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said he feared the case could become more complicated if politics were involved.
“What concerns us is that after the prosecutor questions her, he could forward the case and the investigative judge could decide to detain her. This would make the political atmosphere bad,” he said.
“We request that the prosecutor can process the case, but should not arrest her. The [accusation] is not a serious one.”
Chan Pov Rozet has been viewed as a rising star in the opposition party since she nearly beat longtime sitting commune chief Kem Chhorng in 2012.
Legal expert Sok Sam Oeun said he was not aware of the case, but noted political figures are not immune to summonses.
Additional reporting by Leonie Kijewski