Eviction Fight Toned Down

A Phnom Penh woman who threatened to burn herself alive rather than be evicted from her home toned down her protest on Thursday following the intervention of Senate President Chea Sim and a senior adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen, relatives said.

Keo Sovannavuth, 52, threatened to immolate herself with 60 liters of gasoline in protest when police and court officials attempted to evict her on Wednesday.

Keo Sovannavuth lost a 10-year court battle to keep the ground floor of the house on Street 63 where she has lived since 1980, and claimed that a cor­rupt court system had foiled her bid to re­main owner of the residence.

On Thursday, Keo Sovan­na­vuth’s relatives said she was willing to give the court one more try following a request by Senate Presi­dent Chea Sim to Supreme Court Director Dith Monty to re-inspect the case.

Chea Sim made the request on Wednes­day in a written response to a letter detailing Keo Sov­an­navuth’s case. Copies of the letter were distributed by Keo So­van­navuth’s relatives on Thurs­day.

However, Prak Maly, the commune chief for Boeng Keng Kang I who has championed Keo Sovannavuth’s fight, including writing the letter to Chea Sim, said on Thursday she was retiring from the case.

“I am very concerned about my personal safety,” Prak Maly said.

“A [telephone] caller told me that I should not show my face too much and be careful of danger,” Prak Maly said.

Tiep Kum, Chamkar Mon district police chief, said on Thurs­day that police could not investigate the threat because Prak Maly had not filed a complaint.

“I unofficially heard the same as this,” said Tiep Kum, adding that Om Yentieng, a senior adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen, visited Keo Sovannavuth on Thursday. Keo Sovannavuth’s niece, Chhim Sokha, confirmed the high-ranking visit.

Om Yentieng had convinced her aunt to remove banners at the residence criticizing the court and to restart legal proceedings at the municipal court, Chhim Sokha said.

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