Prime Minister Hun Sen’s sister Hun Sinath has resigned from her job as a secretary of state over what she said was her colleagues’ fear of investigating a land dispute between villagers in Kampong Speu province and tycoon Ly Yong Phat.
Sinath revealed her resignation from the Ministry of National Assembly-Senate Relations and Inspection in a Facebook post yesterday, addressing the affected villagers in Kampong Speu’s Thpong district and apologising for her ministry “not daring” to investigate the allegations made against Yong Phat.
“In my life, I hate injustices more than anything. I will quit my job, because I think when the ministry inspects their fellow travellers, such as Ly Yong Phat, I am sure they do not dare to do anything,” she wrote.
“So I cannot continue to work in a ministry that cannot find justice for people through the complaints system. I will step down from my position and from now on become a normal citizen.”
Sinath, who is married to ruling Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Nhim Chandara, a former ambassador to Myanmar, also said that various officials had asked her how much money it would take to keep quiet.
“Tycoon Ly Yong Phat looks down on me in every way,” she added.
The younger sister of Hun Sen previously worked at the Cambodian consulate in China’s Chongqing province before she took up her job at the ministry in December 2013.
Yong Phat, an ethnic Thai CPP senator and director of the Phnom Penh Sugar Company, declined to comment on Sinath’s resignation.
“I don’t know anything about it,” he said yesterday.
The tycoon’s sugar businesses has come under fire in recent years over what rights groups have labelled “blood sugar”, referring to his ongoing disputes with thousands of families in Thpong district’s Omlaing commune in Kampong Speu province.
Phnom Penh Sugar has been at the centre of the years-long land dispute since the forced evictions of hundreds of families from Yong Phat’s 8,343-hectare land concession in Kampong Speu started in February of 2010.
In January 2013, the Post reported that children as young as 7 years old had worked on the plantation. The company subsequently took action to end the practice, which it attributed to sub-contractors. The Post revealed in January this year that ANZ Royal Bank had been financing the sugar plantation. ANZ moved to sever ties with the firm in the ensuing months, saying simply that it had “paid out its loan” and was no longer a customer.
Pressure groups have also campaigned for companies not to buy sugar from Yong Phat. In January, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling on the bloc’s executive body to urgently act on an EU preferential trade scheme found to have carried high risks of human rights violations through land evictions for industrial sugar development.
Following the reports of abuses at the plantation, drinks giants Pepsi and Coca-Cola said that they would take a “zero tolerance” approach to land grabs.
Facebook users have largely praised Sinath’s announcement of resignation.
“We youth hope that you will come back to serve the people,” one comment read.
Minister of National Assembly-Senate Relations and Inspection Men Sam An could not be reached for comment.
Am Sam Ath, senior investigator with rights group Licadho, said he admired Sinath’s “responsibility” and said it should set an example for other officials to follow.