The Koh Kong Provincial Court has temporarily suspended the business of two-star major general Tun Dieth and ordered him to dig out the soil with which he had filled in a canal in Khemarak Phoumin city’s Smach Meanchey commune after he was accused of land grabbing.
The decision was made after provincial court prosecutor Ros Saram, along with relevant authorities and specialists, conducted a site inspection on Monday of the disputed area on the orders of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Records from the inspection said a joint working group had found that Dieth had filled the Prek Kaoh Pao canal with sand, soil and rubble without authorisation, thus violating the Land Law.
“The prosecutor ordered Dieth to dig out the soil, rubble and sand, and demolish the wooden dock, as well as remove the wooden posts that had been planted along the edge of Prek Kaoh Pao to restore it to its original state.
“In addition, the prosecutor decided to suspend land reclamation activities pending a ruling from the court,” the court records said. It added that action would be taken against Dieth and his family in accordance with the law.
Provincial court spokesman Un Sovan Theany on Tuesday declined to provide details about the case in light of the ongoing investigation.
While awaiting judgement, the working group said they would continue to stay at the site to provide assistance in dredging the sand and soil used to fill the canal.
Police are using two excavators and four trucks to remove the soil, and are looking for additional machinery to speed up the work.
Provincial spokesman Sok Sothy told The Post on Tuesday that soil dredging from the canal, covering an area of 3m by 43m could be completed by Thursday.
“He [Dieth] is yet to be detained. He’s still collaborating with the authorities to remove the soil. We will wait for the court to decide on the next steps,” said Sothy.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction Chea Sophara and provincial governor Phouthong Mithona to act against Dieth.
Hun Sen also warned that Dieth will be removed from his position if found guilty of the alleged land grab.
Rights group Adhoc provincial coordinator Bi Vanny praised the move and insisted that further measures must also be taken against officials who abused their power to circumvent the law.
“Law enforcement seems to have double standards. If officials violate the law, they simply sign an agreement promising that they will follow the law. So they seem to ignore it.
“The law is only enforced against ordinary citizens. It’s only when the prime minister orders it that they take action against officials as well,” said Vanny.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Cambodian Youth Party president Pich Sros, who had previously visited the disputed area, said the law must be enforced strictly against Dieth because it stipulates that state officials who embezzle state properties must be punished more severely than ordinary citizens.
They can even be charged with treason, said Sros.
He also called on civil servants to participate in preserving the state and its property.
“Please don’t wait for the head of state to step in on your behalf and address offences before you take action. You have the authority to enforce the law yourselves,” said Sros.