B Meanchey Official Ousted For Embezzling

The director of Banteay Mean­chey province’s social affairs department was removed from his position Saturday after confessing he had embezzled money from pensions for disabled RCAF veterans, local officials said yesterday.

Officials also said the director had arranged for his brother-in-law to receive a special pension and a military decoration intended for a deceased disabled veteran.

Banteay Meanchey province Dep­­uty Governor Im Phornsophal said the Ministry of Social Affairs had removed Provincial Social Af­fairs Director Heng Chamroeun from his post over the weekend. “He confessed to his wrongdoing,” Mr Phornsophal said.

He added that the provincial authorities had not filed a complaint with the court over Mr Cham­roeun’s apparent embezzlement because the matter was in the hands of the Ministry of Social Af­fairs. “It is an internal issue of the ministry, so only the ministry has the right to decide what to do,” he said, adding that he did not know exactly how many veterans had been duped.

“Setting a counterfeit name is a serious problem since he lied to the prime minister. [Prime Minister Hun Sen] was giving medals to the model veterans and he gave $3,000 and a medal to the fake veteran,” Mr Phornsophal said, referring to a July 20 military ceremony, presided over by the premier, where Chhit Sophorn, brother-in-law of Mr Chamroeun, posed as a veteran named Keo Pheap, who had al­ready died.

Mr Chamroeun’s removal comes after a group of around 250 disabled veterans from across Banteay Meanchey protested in front of the provincial governor’s office in early August, demanding the resignation of the director be­cause some of them had not been receiving their full pension money and had not been paid on time.

Some veterans said then they had also seen on television the ceremony wherein Mr Sophorn had apparently pretended to be their dead comrade Keo Pheap.

“He abused the veteran who al­ready died, while his wife and children are starving and get no­thing…the wife and children should get the pension,” said Sim Yoeung, a representative of the veterans.

The veterans are entitled to a pen­sion of about $33 per month of which $1 or $2.50 per month would be withheld, he said, explaining that Mr Chamroeun told the veterans this money would go into a fund to pay for the funeral of veterans who died and for their families.

“No one got that money, al­though it disappeared every month. They [the deceased veterans] died and are reborn already, but we never see the money go to the family of the dead veteran or to their funeral,” Mr Yoeung said.

Mr Chamroeun could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Five secretaries of state of the Ministry of Social Affairs contacted by telephone yesterday declined to com­ment on Mr Chamroeun’s removal.

Banteay Meanchey Provincial Prosecutor So Vat said the provincial court was not investigating the alleged embezzlement as it was an issue of the Ministry of Social Af­fairs, and the ministry had not yet filed a complaint.


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