Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Kampong Thom official grilled, ‘accomplice’ charged over canal restoration

Kampong Thom official grilled, ‘accomplice’ charged over canal restoration

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The Kampong Thom Provincial Hall’s head of Inter-sectoral Bureau Mao Bunthou is under investigation by the provincial court over a number of crimes. Facebook

Kampong Thom official grilled, ‘accomplice’ charged over canal restoration

The Kampong Thom Provincial Hall’s head of Inter-sectoral Bureau Mao Bunthou is under investigation by the provincial court over a number of crimes including illegal confinement, intimidation and illegal interference in the performance of public functions.

Provincial court deputy prosecutor Say Veasna told The Post on Tuesday he had referred Bunthou’s case to Investigating Judge Phoung Vann on August 26.

“The judge is investigating whether Bunthou is involved and who is else involved,” Veasna said.

He said one of Bunthou’s alleged accomplices, Ouch Vannarith, was arrested and placed in pre-trial detention on August 26 on charges of “illegal arrest and confinement, intimidation and illegal interference in the performance of public functions”.

The two and their accomplices allegedly took a man named Nhoem Mol while he was delivering rice to a tractor driver excavating a canal at the Boeung Phkor Lorn area in Stung Sen town’s Srayov commune. The suspects then went on to arrest Chhut Than and Yuk Kutt, who were also tractor drivers. They confiscated two tractors, a motorbike and two mobile phones.

However, in their confiscation report to the provincial Fisheries Administration, only two tractors were listed. No other evidence was recorded in the report.

According to the court’s arrest warrant for Vannarith, the evidence showed that Mol, Than and Kutt were not excavating canals illegally. The three were detained for two days without reason, it said.

The tractors operated by Kutt and Than belonged to the BVB company and not digging on land owned by others. The team hired to restore the canal was approved by Stung Sen town governor Mak Bunhong, provincial Water Resource and Meteorology Department director You La, and provincial governor Sok Lou in accordance with the laws, the warrant states.

“The actions of Ouch Vannarith and Mao Bunthou were illegal,” it said.

The three detained men could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

La, the water resource department director, said on Monday the three victims had indeed asked for a permit and approval from officials. He said he did not know Bunthou’s group arrested and detained them without giving a clear reason.

La said the Boeung Phkor Lorn canal was planned for restoration by the people and the authorities because it is old and cannot store water for use in the dry season.

The BVB Company has applied for the right to restore the canal free of charge, and has so far restored just 100m of the more than 1,000m canal.

“I do not know how the court will deal with Bunthou or Vannarith, but just know that the three victims legally asked for permission,” La said. “

Bunthou could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

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