The Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) has announced the closure of the case against former Kampong Chhnang provincial governor Chhuor Chandoeun for his encroachment on flooded forest land after he returned 22 plots of land to the state, while the province – under its new governor – has completed the repossession of more than 30,000ha of state land in three areas around Tonle Sap Lake.

On July 20-21, 2022, ACU head Om Yentieng chaired a meeting at the provincial hall to announce the results of the investigation into Chandoeun’s conduct while he was governor.

The ACU now claims that the case has been completely resolved with all complaints it had received regarding 22 plots of land that had been illegally encroached upon by the former governor.

“The ACU informed the provincial leadership about the 22 parcels of land ... that have been returned to the state based on the ACU’s research results about the complaints against Chandoeun and by the decision of [Prime Minister Hun Sen],” it said in a statement.

Current Kampong Chhnang governor Sun Sovannarith told The Post on July 24 that of the 22 parcels of land, one had already been returned to the commune chief, while two more have been returned to the provincial military and the other 19 to the provincial administration.

Sovannarith stressed that the provincial administration has not taken any legal action against the former governor, saying that it depends on the decisions of the ACU.

“[The] paperwork that I received from the ACU was complete for Kampong Chhnang with 22 parcels of land having been returned. If there are any other [legal] cases or issues, then I guess the ACU would know about that,” he said.

Regarding the implementation of the campaign to confiscate flooded forest land around Tonle Sap Lake, Sovannarith said that to his understanding the provincial administration has now completed the confiscation of all encroached land.

He said that over 30,000ha of flooded forest land was reclaimed by the state in three areas and they had detained two suspects, while more than 7,500 people had voluntarily returned their land to forestall any additional legal consequences.

“After the land was back under our control, we planted palm trees on about five to 10 per cent of it so far. Actually, this planting was done as a form of boundary fencing to prevent further encroachment. The land inside – if there is no encroachment – it eventually will grow back naturally without any need for replanting,” he said.

Chandoeun, who is currently serving as a secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior, could not be reached for comment on July 24.

Soeng Sen Karuna, senior investigator for rights group ADHOC, said that while the ACU announced the closure of Chandoeun’s case, they should be more transparent about the legal measures they did or did not take and not just claim that it had been returned so the case was closed.

Yentieng could not be reached for comment on July 24 regarding the actions taken in the case against Chandoeun.