Anti-Corruption Unit Closes Probe Into Ex-Governor’s Flooded Forest Grab

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Siem Reap military police officials patrol the waters of the Tonle Sap’s flooded forests on Monday in search of illegal land grabs in late November. (GRK News)

The Anti-Corruption Unit closed its investigation into a Kampong Chhnang ex-governor whose vast tracts of protected flooded-forest land were confiscated amid a crackdown on illegal encroachment.

Prime Minister Hun Sen last year accused an unnamed ex-governor of destroying and grabbing more than 2,000 hectares around the Tonle Sap, amid the premier’s campaign to reclaim lost forests around the lake. Much of the area has been devastated in recent years.

The state reclaimed more than 20,000 hectares in all — including 22 plots from former Kampong Chhnang governor Chhour Chandoeun. The ACU was tasked with investigating and taking legal action against Chandoeun.

The ex-governor, who is now an Interior Ministry undersecretary of state, last week joined a meeting at the Kampong Chhnang provincial hall with ACU head Om Yentieng and current governor Sun Sovannarith. He was seen in photographs thumb-printing a document at the meeting.

The ACU said in a statement that it had closed the case and informed the province about the investigation’s results — which it did not disclose. ACU spokesperson Soy Chanvicheth on Tuesday named 13 locations confiscated from Chandoeun but would not answer what was happening with the ex-governor.

Sovannarith, the current governor, said the meeting had marked “the end of the dispute with the former governor.”

He said the ACU had confiscated 22 plots from Chandoeun, 19 of which would be controlled by the provincial administration. One would go to a local commune and two to the military, he said, adding that he did not know the total area in hectares.

Asked about whether the former governor would face any punishment, Sovannarith said this was not part of his jurisdiction.

“This is above my authority, and you should ask the ACU because I am just in the provincial administration and just got 22 plots of land,” he said. “Brother, ask the ACU because he is the one who handles the case.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article misnamed the ex-governor in Soy Chanvicheth’s comment.

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