The Ministry of Mines and Energy has accused a Kandal province businessman of defamation and operating an illegal digging site, a few weeks after he allegedly shot into the ground to scare off officials trying to inspect his land.
In its complaint to the Kandal Provincial Court, filed on Thursday, the ministry claims that Reurng Sam Arn, 49, defamed the ministry in an interview with Kampuchea Thmey newspaper on January 18.
In the interview, Sam Arn claimed that the officials came to the site looking to extort money.
“I did not shoot to scare them,” he was quoted as saying. “They came after I finished shooting. They came for tea money and I didn’t want to meet them. They are such dogs – if you don’t give them money, then they cause trouble like that.”
Sam Arn later added that he would have given the officials the money if he had had any on him.
Ministry spokesman Yos Monirath said yesterday that the ministry had yet to investigate Sam Arn’s extortion claims, but filed the complaint because “we cannot accept this . . . He insulted us.”
“We’re going to wait until we go to court for him to clarify and bring his evidence,” Monirath said.
The complaint does not mention the alleged shooting. Last month, authorities said they were searching for Sam Arn after he fired shots into the ground to scare off officials, and about 20 bullet casings were collected from the scene.
Mines and Energy Minister Suy Sem, who signed the ministry’s complaint, claims that Sam Arn’s comments “insulted public servants”.
“Comparing the servants to animals affects the dignity of the officials,” the complaint reads. “It not only affects the officials, but the ministry as a whole.”
According to Sem, an inspection team went to check Sam Arn’s digging site in Sa’ang district’s Svay Ralum commune last month to inform him that he was breaking the law and that the operation was disturbing people living in the area.
After the ministry asked Sam Arn to stop the operation, he became angry and went to the media, the letter claims.
Sam Arn and his wife, Chan Mony, operated three unregistered digging sites and should both face charges under the mining law, according to the letter.
Tin Sochetra, spokesman at the Kandal Provincial Court, said the court had received the complaint and is investigating. “We will call all the relevant people, like the plaintiffs and defendants, for questioning soon,” he said.