A former civil servant was sentenced on Friday to five years in prison by Kampong Cham Provincial Court for stealing the pensions of 10 retired teachers – a total of $500 – in March 2012.
Mang Yusreng, former chief of the Social Affairs Office in Srei Santhor district, was ordered to serve only three years of the total sentence, his defence lawyer, Kea Eav, said.
But Eav yesterday called for his client’s immediate release, citing health problems, the fact that he’d repaid the money and that the retired teachers had withdrawn their complaints.
“I am asking the court release him on bail or send him to Phnom Penh for treatment” of a bladder condition, he said, adding that his client has only developed the problem since being in prison.
Yusreng was arrested by the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) and Kampong Cham authorities on November 16 after a lawsuit was filed by the victims, who said they had not received their 200,000 riel ($50) pension payouts for March 2012.
A post on the ACU website the day before his arrest said that Yusreng had also falsified thumbprints on documents. He has been detained since then.
“My client had confessed to all those charges and paid all money back to retired teachers, and they also withdrew their complaints against him,” Eav said.
San Chey, coordinator for the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific, welcomed Friday’s ruling but said that more needs to be done to put an end to bigger cases of corruption by officials.
“Whatever action the ACU and courts take on corrupt officials we welcome, but please look back to other big money corruption cases,” Chey said.
He cited the Global Fund corruption scandal, in which health officials stand accused of soliciting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to secure big contracts for two multinational mosquito net providers, as one example of officials going unpunished for their crimes.
“We can say here that a big fish is released but the small fish is trapped in the net. We want all corrupt [people] to face punishments,” he said.
ACU president Om Yentieng could not be reached.