OPPOSITION Sam Rainsy Party activist Tuot Saron has been ordered to give up his post as chief of Pongro commune in Kampong Thom province’s Baray district, after being freed from jail on royal amnesty last month.
Baray District Governor Hak Mov Seng said yesterday that he will refuse to let Tuot Saron resume his duties unless the Ministry of Interior issues an official letter reinstating him. He said he has demanded that Tuot Saron return his rubber stamp, a means of ratifying official documents.
“Tuot Saron cannot hold a rubber stamp any more. I will not allow him to do anything at all and if he stamps documents, we will refuse them,” Hak Mov Seng said.
During the run up to national elections in 2008, Tuot Saron was imprisoned for abducting and illegally holding an SRP election candidate against his will.
Rights group Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience and he received a pardon from King Norodom Sihamoni in December.
Hak Mov Seng said that under Article 16 of the law on commune management, council members must give up their posts in case of imprisonment for either a crime or misdemeanor, making Tuot Saron ineligible to be commune chief.
However, Pongro commune Deputy Chief Dam Mon refused the order from Hak Mov Seng, saying it is illegal unless ordered by the Ministry of Interior.
Tuot Saron said on Wednesday that he has the right to serve his people as commune chief, and that the Ministry of Interior did not restrict any of his rights following his release from prison.
“I am no longer a prisoner. The government and the Ministry of Interior have not issued any letter removing me from my post. The word of pardon means that everything must be restored,” he said.
Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, confirmed that unless banned by the ministry, Tuot Saron should be allowed to remain.
If the district governor wishes to remove Tout Saron, he must contact the ministry, Sok Sam Oeun added.