An opposition commune chief in Siem Reap province has been jailed after allegedly signing a document that claimed state-owned land belonged to an Ampil commune villager who wished to use the deed as leverage to gain bank loans.
The document, allegedly signed by the Ampil commune chief, Cambodia National Rescue Party official Heang Sary, 55, has not been released to the public and so the details of the land in question are not known.
However, officials yesterday said the land was under the control of the Apsara Authority, the government body in charge of administering the Angkor temples, which filed a complaint to the provincial court leading to Sary’s arrest.
Mut Morla, a provincial CNRP councillor, said Sary should have been released after he went voluntarily to the court to “clarify” what had happened.
“The court must not detain him in the prison like this after he went to court on Wednesday for clarification. The Apsara Authority accused him of falsifying a public letter to the villagers to use the land, which is under the control of Apsara and beyond his jurisdiction,” he said.
“They should investigate more before detaining him. Their decision seems to be politically motivated.”
Dozens of villagers gathered outside the Ampil commune office yesterday afternoon to protest Sary’s ongoing detention without charge.
Sary was promoted recently from a councillor in the commune to commune chief, and locals had only positive reviews of his tenure when contacted yesterday.
Long Kosal, an Apsara Authority spokesman, declined to comment on the case yesterday, saying he could jeopardise the ongoing legal proceedings.
Chhun Chan Seiha, the investigative judge assigned to the case by the Siem Reap Provincial Court, could not be reached.
Ke Sovannaroth, a CNRP spokesman, echoed Morla’s allegations that Sary’s detention was politically motivated.
“When a commune chief signs any letter, he must have other officials knowing about it as well, so why were no officials arrested from other parties? He was arrested because he is a commune chief from the CNRP,” he said.
“He is a kind person who has taken good care of the villagers over there, without taking benefits for himself. There are many problems in that area with demarcation of the land for villagers, and the authorities do not provide clear information.”
Sok Eysan, a CPP spokesman, denied the charge that the case was politically motivated, saying that the courts were acting independently based on the Apsara complaint.