A soldier who was removed from Prime Minister Hun Sen’s bodyguard unit over his involvement in a land dispute has this month been made an adviser to Interior Minister Sar Kheng, according to government letters and court documents.
Thorn Virak had been accused in the Preah Sihanouk Provincial Court this year of fraud, breach of trust and illegally occupying land, though a statement from his lawyer and an Interior Ministry spokesperson said there have been misunderstandings, including about his departure from his unit.
In February, Virak was “removed from the controlling list of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces” because he had “breached discipline many times,” a letter sent from the prime minister’s bodyguard unit to the provincial governor says.
Virak “recently defrauded people in relation to buying land in Preah Sihanouk province,” the letter says. “Please, His Excellency … be informed and take legal action if the above person uses the unit’s name illegally.”
A court complaint dated September 30 says the complainant, Meas Veasna, bought land in Thma Thum village, in Prey Nob district’s Ream commune, in April 2006. But when Veasna went to check on the site in June 2019, he found a house and concrete fence there built by Virak.
Veasna asks that Virak pay compensation of $500,000.
The complainant’s lawyer, Kong Pitou, said the court had summoned Virak twice but he did not show up. He said there was evidence that Virak claimed Veasna’s land illegally.
“He still occupies the land with a house, fence, buildings. I hope the prosecutor will continue to take action and speed this up,” Pitou said.
Provincial court spokesperson Lim Bun Heng said prosecutors were looking into the situation.
An earlier court summons from March asks Virak to appear for questioning related to allegations from another complainant, Lim Phorn. The summons says Virak and his wife, Chhun Mey Ling, are accused of fraud and breach of trust in relation to an unspecified case in Thma Thum village.
Nevertheless, in a royal decree dated December 9, Virak was made an adviser to Interior Minister Kheng with a rank of undersecretary of state.
Interior Ministry spokesperson Khieu Sopheak said some people considered Virak to be a good person, while others deemed him bad.
“We are searching for this information. We are working on it,” Sopheak said.
A statement issued by Virak’s lawyer Sao Sambath on Monday acknowledges that there was a letter from the bodyguard unit to the provincial governor on February 17, but that there was a misunderstanding. Virak resigned from the unit because he did not have enough time for the work, the lawyer’s statement says.