National Assembly President Heng Samrin has accepted a letter of inquiry from the Sam Rainsy Party seeking clarification on the investigation of the temporary release of a former Ratanakkiri police chief convicted of illegal logging.
The letter, submitted by SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua on January 28 and returned bearing the signature of Heng Samrin on Tuesday, urged Minister of the Interior Sar Kheng to issue a report on the ministry’s investigation of the release of Yoeung Baloung, now serving a 13-year sentence in Prey Sar prison.
Khiev Sophak, a spokesman for the ministry, said on Tuesday that he had no knowledge of the letter and could not comment on whether or not Sar Kheng would address the issue.
Yoeung Baloung was released from prison on January 15 to attend an ethnic festival, according to a ministry official, during which he was involved in a car accident that left three people injured.
An initial investigation by the ministry reported that the release of Yoeung Baloung, who was sentenced to 13 years in prison in 2006, had been illegal.
Liv Mauv, deputy director of the department of prisons at the ministry, said on January 19 that the release “was against the law” because official permission had not been obtained from the prison.
He said the following week, however, that it was permissible because his wife had sought permission from a prison official to have her husband released temporarily for health reasons.
Khiev Sophak said on Tuesday that the legality of Yoeung Baloung’s release “was not official yet”.
Pen Bonnar, a coordinator for the local rights group Adhoc in Ratanakkiri, supported the call for clarification, saying “someone must be responsible for the case, and the prison is under the control of the ministry [of information], so it is good for the clarification to be made by the minister”.
Ho Van, an SRP parliamentarian, said yesterday that by law Sar Kheng had two weeks to respond to the request for clarification.
He added that the minister could seek additional time for a response if necessary but urged prompt attention to the clarification request.
“We need Sar Kheng to respond ... that Yoeung Baloung had the right to be outside prison, and we need the ministry to respect the law,” he said.
Mu Sochua was not available for comment yesterday.