The official record of a Council of Ministers meeting held the day after the Jan 22 dismissal of RCAF Commander-in-Chief Ke Kim Yan state that the government has ordered an investigation of the former military leader and his business associates over several land deals across the country.
CPP and military officials have repeatedly claimed that the ouster of Ke Kim Yan was solely to promote reforms within the military, but according to the minutes of a Jan 23 meeting of the Council of Ministers, a copy of which was obtained Friday, land issues were also at play in the decision.
According to the meeting minutes, “The Council of Ministers has been informed and commented on the termination of the position of commander-in-chief from HE Ke Kim Yan based on two reasons:
“First, reforming the RCAF rank and file by adhering to work effectiveness in the military rank and file.
“Second, involvement with land issues by a top, powerful person in the military rank and file…and doing business by using the name of the military for personal gain.”
The minutes go on to describe a resolution by the Council of Ministers to have both military and government bodies investigate Ke Kim Yan’s land dealings.
“The Council of Ministers has decided to give the duty to […] the Ministry of Land Management, Urbanization and Construction, the RCAF High Command, the Municipal Hall of Phnom Penh and relevant institutions to inspect the legality of land ownership of the company involved with HE Ke Kim Yan […] in order to take court action and take measures to remove the troops and all tractors for clearing land that are engaged in activities in developing areas belonging to the company involved with HE Ke Kim Yan,” the minutes read.
According to the minutes, the company associated with Ke Kim Yan, which is not named, owns property in Phnom Penh, Stung Treng and Preah Vihear and also attempted to fill in two fishing lots along National Road 6A. The minutes state that investigators are to look for possible land holdings in other provinces.
Ke Kim Yan could not be reached for comment Friday.
Fisheries Administration Director Nao Thuok said by telephone Friday that last year his officers prevented the YLP Group, which is owned by Ke Kim Yan’s wife, Mao Malay, from filling in fishing lots 10 and 11 in Kandal province’s Mok Kampoul district. He said the company planned to build a hotel and resort complex on 200 hectares of floodplain purchased from villagers in Bakheng commune.
“The YLP company has owned more than 200 hectares of land there, and 60 hectares of it were fishing lots,” Nao Thuok said, adding that the company did not end up touching the fishing areas because of the Fisheries Administration’s intervention. He added that the company appeared to have proper land titles for the property.
Despite a statement in the minutes that RCAF High Command is to investigate Ke Kim Yan, newly appointed RCAF Commander-in-Chief Pol Saroeun said his office was not looking into his predecessor’s land deals. He added, however, that the military was generally reviewing its troops to possibly redeploy or demobilize soldiers involved with land disputes.
Defense Minister Tea Banh said his ministry is also not looking into Ke Kim Yan’s properties.
“Anything relating to Ke Kim Yan has ended since his termination from the position of RCAF high commander,” he said by telephone.
Council of Ministers spokesman and Secretary of State Phay Siphan said he was not aware of any investigation of Ke Kim Yan or the contents of the Jan 23 meeting minutes. Land Management Minister Im Chhun Lim and Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema could not be reached for comment.
Funcinpec Deputy Prime Minister Nhiek Bun Chhay, who was present at the Jan 23 Council of Ministers meeting, said Friday that it was Prime Minister Hun Sen who had raised the issue of Ke Kim Yan’s dismissal at the meeting and had called for further investigation into the general’s real estate holdings.
“Samdech prime minister raised with order relating to the land issue during the meeting,” Nhiek Bun Chhay said.
“The matter involved with land problems is not limited to just [Ke Kim Yan] alone,” he added. “It has become common for one who holds a senior position to be involved with business. There are many.”