An imprisoned former Ratanakkiri provincial police chief – who, two years ago, was indicted in a drunk-driving car crash after being given temporary leave to attend a festival – was again permitted to leave prison over the weekend, a police officer said yesterday, though the claim was denied by a prison official.
Yoeung Baloung, who was sentenced to 13 years in 2006 for his involvement in an illegal logging ring, left prison Sunday morning and returned that evening, said O’Chum district officer Keo Sareth.
“He was allowed to go out of the prison to attend his son’s wedding ceremony as well as celebrate the Khmer New Year at his house on the first day of the Khmer New Year celebration [on Sunday],” said Sareth, adding that Baloung was accompanied by officers.
Chief of Ratanakkiri Provincial Prison, Ngin Nal, however, denied the account, and insisted the prisoner “stayed in prison. He was not allowed to go outside as claimed.”
Local villager Ban Ya, 45, said he had not been invited to the wedding but had heard from “many people” that Baloung had been briefly present.
Baloung made headlines in January 2011 after crashing his car into a motorbike – injuring three people – while driving home drunk following a party. Then, too, Baloung had been released temporarily to attend an ethnic Kreung celebration.
Adhoc provincial co-ordinator Chhay Thy said the latest release demonstrated the unequal treatment afforded to the powerful, even while incarcerated.
“It violates the law,” he said, adding that the group would launch its own investigation.