Disgraced three-star general and Ministry of Interior adviser Doeun Sovann wrote a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday apologising for his alleged role in a land dispute that saw him charged with threatening villagers and interfering with land measurement volunteers, according to a copy obtained by the Post.
As penance, he wrote, he would donate his land to the government.
Ly Lip Meng, an investigating judge with the Pursat Provincial Court, said that Sovann was charged on Tuesday after allegedly asking officials in Pursat’s Veal Veng district and Thmar Da commune on October 2 to assign volunteers to measure land that he purportedly bought in 2008, but was still being occupied by the previous owners.
Ten days later, in a speech, Hun Sen called for Sovann’s dismissal and the removal of his rank, saying that the land measurement directive required volunteers to find in favour of villagers. He has since been sacked and his stars stripped.
In his letter, Sovann maintained that official documents showed he had bought the land, but acknowledged that asking volunteers to measure it had been a “mistake due to . . . a misunderstanding of the procedure of land measurement”.
“To avoid further conflict, I would like to give the 52-hectare plot of land to the government without any conditions,” the letter read.
Judge Lip Meng said that a second summons for Sovann to be questioned was in the works, but that the ex-general had not been arrested.
Before today’s letter surfaced, provincial police chief Sarun Chanty said that he was unaware of Sovann purchasing the land, but said, “if he did really buy it ... he has the right to use it, or live on it, or sell it to other people as he wishes”.
National Police spokesman Kirth Chantharith confirmed that Sovann’s rank had been stripped, and that he had been expelled from the National Police, but declined to comment further.
Kong Samath, a penal police officer in Phnom Penh, said that, as of yesterday, police were watching Sovann’s home should the court call for his arrest.
To contact the reporter on this story: Buth Reaksmey Kongkea at [email protected]
Cheang Sokha contributed to this report.