District, Social Affairs, Environment Officials Investigated for Corruption

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The Anti-Corruption Unit in Phnom Penh. (Michael Coghlan/Creative Commons)

The Anti-Corruption Unit has asked a Kampong Speu district official to return land he sold to a buyer by opening a small dam to let out the water and then selling the drained land surrounding the reservoir.

ACU boss Om Yentieng sent a letter to Baset district governor Chhouen Sothon asking him to take back provincial environment department land that was sold by district administration head Sin Saron. Saron allegedly sold the land — which was previously inundated by a dam — to a woman named “Vorn Chheu Vinky An Say Nav.”

The letter says the district governor should take back the land sold by Saron to “Vorn Chheu Vinky An Say Nav” and stop him from draining the land to sell because Saron would not stop at the first land sale.

The district governor then issued a letter a day later and sent to “Vorn Chheu Vinky An Say Nav” that it was illegal to buy the drained land and that no official document had been drafted to acknowledge the sale.

Another letter to Saron, asked him to return a “key” that he took from a guard to open the dam and release the water to measure the drained land, and to stop trying to sell state land.

This recent case follows a string of corruption allegations leveled against government officials, though an ACU official seemed to dismiss suggestions there were more reported corruption cases. 

ACU spokesperson Soy Chanvicheth did not acknowledge or dismiss a potential increase in cases and said they investigate every case that was fouled to the unit.

“So far for the activities, ACU has been requested to do [investigations] and they have already done it,” he said.

In late December,  the ACU was investigating Pov Som Nak, a staffer in the Kandal provincial environment department, for allegedly accepting $200 a month from officials in return for not coming to work and also for taking money from a fund to plant tree saplings.

Earlier in the month, the ACU said it was investigating corruption allegations against Lay Samnang, an officer in the Social Affairs Ministry’s finance department for allegedly embezzling $387,000 from 11 social assistance programs to assist the poor.

National Museum staffers also recently accused the institution’s director of taking tens of thousands of dollars for his personal gain. The museum director mistreated staff and used the culture minister’s name for unethical behavior, they said.

Im Norin, program director for Transparency International Cambodia, said it was hard to estimate if the ACU was seeing an uptick and that there was never any clear information about the cases being investigated by the unit.

“Sometimes, we see one or two cases and then they disappear for a while, and again we see one or two cases. So we do not know clearly what are the reasons and causes that push these cases while other cases have not seen action taken,” he said.

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