THE MINISTER of Justice, Uk Vithun, and his wife, Uk Lihour, are embroiled in a
legal wrangle over house ownership with their neighbor - who was thrown into
jail on charges of organized crime, libel, and attempted manslaughter after an
argument with Lihour over the matter.
The house on the left belongs to the Minister of Justice, Uk Vithun; that on the right is jointly owned by his wife, Uk Lihour, and Leng Sreng
The jailed man, Leng Sreng, was
freed last night, Aug 5, after the prosecutor withdrew the most serious of the
Sreng owns a four-story house that adjoins the Uk house on
Sisowath Quay. Earlier this year, the top floor of his house, (E3), and part of
the first floor, which is sectioned into two flats (E1a and E1b), were sold to
Uk Vithun's wife, Lihour.
She, however, claims that the entire first
floor of the building belongs to her - and continuing disagreements over
ownership escalated into a full-blown confrontation at the end of July, when she
found Leng Sreng and his relatives (including a three-star general and his
bodyguards) in flat E1b - the disputed first floor flat.
prosecutor and the gendarmerie were called to the residence, and Sreng's wife
and son were arrested. Sreng himself was called to the court and arrested the
Som Chandyna, lawyer for Lihour, said that Leng Sreng's
family had been arrested "because they had brought the general to make a
problem, and because they used bad words and wanted to fight Lihour".
said he was present during the altercation at the house.
He alleged that
the bodyguards of the general had pistols with them, but admitted he had not
"I'm not sure if they had handguns or not, but the bodyguards
of generals usually do," he said.
Asked why the accused were charged with
organized crime, attempted manslaughter and libel, he said he did not know, and
that the Post should ask the prosecutor.
"Perhaps the prosecutor thought
that these people were conspiring against Madame Uk Vithun," he said.
prosecutor refused to comment.
A legal adviser to Leng Sreng, who did not
wish to be named, said that Lihour had no right to the entire floor and the
charges against his client were spurious.
"Leng Sreng has a document
proving that flat [E1b] belongs to him," he said. "And nobody had any weapons
... Leng Sreng is the real victim, not the offender," he said.
of Justice Uk Vithun was keen to avoid questions about the case when the Post
visited his office on August 4.
"This is not an important story," he
said. "I can tell you that this problem is already agreed with Leng Sreng, and
he will be released today or tomorrow."
Vithun insisted neither he nor
his wife asked for Sreng to be arrested.
"I don't know who asked for him
to be arrested," he said. "I did not send him to jail. You should ask the court
But he said he wanted the dispute to be finished. "If
Leng Sreng's family ask for a pardon, I will do it," he said.
charges cannot be withdrawn by the plaintiff but are considered issues for the
He then said that if the Post story was aborted he would provide
information for much better stories in the future.
In the evening of the
day of the interview, the Post was contacted several times by a Funcinpec MP
acting as an intermediary for Leng Sreng's family, saying they did not want a
story published because they were concerned that Leng Sreng would not be
released from jail if it was.
"You understand [the situation in]
Cambodia," said the MP.
The ownership of the two flats is also the
subject of a coming civil case at the municipal court, which was pending before
the criminal charges of attempted manslaughter, libel and organized
The first floor of the house was originally owned by an entirely
separate family, two brothers and a sister. The family split the first floor
into two apartments; flat E1a was sold to Uk Vithun's wife by the two brothers,
flat E1b was sold to Leng Sreng by the sister.
But Chandyna claimed
Lihour was told by the brothers that the whole of the first floor now belonged
to her. Chandyna said that the brothers deny that their sister had any authority
to sell the second part of the flat to Leng Sreng.
The disputed ownership
has led to a series of domestic squabbles between the two households.
June, Sreng, finding that the door to flat E1b had been locked by Lihour,
knocked a hole from his second floor flat (E2) into E1b, and installed a
Lihour, furious at what she believed was a violation of her
property, ordered him to take away the staircase. She also filed a complaint at
court, through her relative Heng Khum, demanding $5,000 in damages to the wall
of her neighboring house, plus $3,000 in mental damages.
The hearing for
that case took place on June 24. Judge Om Sarith ruled that the stairs must be
taken away - something that was purely academic by that point, as according to
Sreng's legal advisor the stairs had been removed by Lihour's builders even
before the hearing took place.
But the troubles did not stop
A leaky waste pipe was the next bone of contention. The pipe from
the toilet in Leng Sreng's flat E2 extends down through Lihour's flat (E1a) and,
according to Sreng's legal advisor, was rusty and had started to leak. Lihour
requested on July 13 that he replace the pipe with a plastic version - but just
one day after her request, she brought in builders to remove the pipe, making
Sreng's toilet unusable.
According to Sreng's legal adviser, it was just
a few days later, on July 22, that Lihour brought in builders to "knock down the
dividing wall between the apartments [E1a and b]." It was at this point that the
dispute which led to the arrest of Sreng's wife and son erupted, as Sreng's
family tried to convince the builders not to knock down the wall.
[Lihour] saw Leng Sreng and his relatives she was very angry," said the adviser.
"She used many bad words and said they had no right to go into her
According to him, it was Lihour that requested the gendarmerie be
called, but Uk Vithun and Chandyna deny this.
"It was the prosecutor who
called for the arrest," he said, explaining that he himself had called the
prosecutor to the scene of the dispute.
Chandyna's name appears in the
court register as the plaintiff in the criminal case but he could not explain
why the charges of organized crime or attempted manslaughter had been laid
The legal adviser said the allegations were baseless.
"There are no grounds at all for these charges, it's all about power," he said.