CPP Official Defends Wife Against Land Misuse Claim

A CPP secretary of state at the Ministry of Land Management has dismissed claims by more than 40 Phnom Penh residents that his wife has taken possession of what should be a road and rented it out.

In letters addressed to Prime Minister Hun Sen, Cabinet Minis­ter Sok An, Senate President Chea Sim and National Assembly Presi­dent Heng Samrin obtained Mon­day, the 43 residents alleged that the wife of Chea Sophara has rented out land designated as a road in Russei Keo district.

Chea Sophara, who is a former Phnom Penh municipal governor, said by telephone Monday the allegation was nonsense, adding that his family owns the land legally.

“I already have ownership [of the land],” he said, accusing the villagers of wanting to cut through his land to establish a road to their properties. Chea Sophara declined to provide a phone number for his wife and did not give her name.

The villagers allege in their complaint that the land in question was designated as a road in a map of Kilometr Pram Muoy commune’s Spean Khpurs village, a map that was signed off on by Chea Sophara while he was municipal governor in 2000.

In July 2006, the villagers claim, Chea Sophara’s wife, whom they identify only as “Chumteav Chea Sophara,” took over a 60-meter stretch of what should have been the road and rented it out to flower vendors, who set up stalls on it.

Chea Sophara said that there is a new map, and that it does not in­clude the road.

“I don’t believe there is a new map which deletes the road,” said Sok Sek, one of the 43 residents who, he said, delivered their complaint to the offices of top government officials Monday.

In a speech on March 5, Hun Sen declared “war” on land grabbers, and threatened to fire any CPP officials who have grabbed state land before the week was out.

Heng Samrin, who is also CPP honorary president, said Monday that he has not seen the complaint and did not know the details of the case. He added that the case had nothing to do with the CPP.

“It is a personal issue,” he said.

Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kan­harith could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

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