Court Releases Detained Funcinpec Official

A Funcinpec commune councilor detained in the Kompong Cham provincial prison since May 3 was released Tuesday pending his trial next month, a court official said.

Funcinpec commune councilor Keo Van Tout, who is charged by the courts with destroying property in connection with a long-running land dispute, is also accused by the head of a US company with shooting and injuring two of his employees. The provincial court has not charged Keo Van Tout with the alleged shooting.

“Because this is a misdemeanor case, the court can release him temporarily,” Kompong Cham Court Director Judge Tith Sothy said on Tuesday.

Tith Sothy said Keo Van Tout is being released on the condition that when he returns to Roka Pou Pram commune, Tbong Khmum district, he will not destroy any property or allow any villagers to destroy property. Keo Van Tout must also return anytime court officials request that he appears before them, Tith Sothy said.

Previously, the court stated that it would hold an advance hearing on June 22 to decide if Keo Van Tout would be released temporarily before his trial. Tith Sothy gave no reason for the earlier than expected release.

One court official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Keo Van Tout is being released “to ease tensions between the political party and the international community” which has become deeply interested in the case. The official did not specify which political party is involved.

The UN, local human rights groups and Funcinpec officials have become concerned with the case because Keo Van Tout has worked on land rights in Kom­pong Cham since 1999.

Some critics have said Keo Van Tout is being arrested because of his activism in the area.

The head of the US company SRP International, which began leasing land in a disputed area that Keo Van Tout has been fighting for, has accused Keo Van Tout of vandalizing the property and of trying to kill employees of the company.


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