Finance Minister: Ly Pros Must Return Land

Finance Minister Keat Chhon said Wednesday he will take back a piece of Phnom Penh property being developed by Ly Pros, director general of the Ministry of Rural Development. 

Parliamentarians have asked Prime Minister Hun Sen to remove Ly Pros from his position because they say he illegally owns 3,265 square meters of land in Russei Keo district that was supposed to belong to the municipality.

“We have enough documents to take this piece of land back,” Keat Chhon said Wednes­­­day morning. “[But] we will also allow him to defend his [ownership] if he has documents to show us.”

Ly Pros said Tuesday he owns the land legitimately, and says he has approval documents signed by both Prime Minister Hun Sen and Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng.

“I will show [the Finance Min­is­try] all the documents that I have, including the official land title,” he said.

Ly Pros’ plot lies on 22,331 square meters of land owned by the municipality’s rural development office. Instead of returning the land after the demands made by members of parliament in June, Ly Pros instead continued to develop it, officials said.

Documents from the ministries of Finance, Rural Development and Inspection, as well as from the office of the prime minister, show that there are overwhelming demands on him to return the land.

“Agree with the requested above,” Hun Sen wrote in re­sponse to a letter from the Minis­try of Inspection in 1999, which found that the land being developed by Ly Pros indeed belonged to the state.

“According to the investigation, this land belongs to the Rural Development municipality office,” the Inspection Ministry reported to Hun Sen. “To practice transparency, I would like to inform Samdech Prime Minister that the land, 3,265 square meters captured by Ly Pros, must be re­turned to the [rural development office].”

Ly Pros said Tuesday he will not give the land back.

On Tuesday evening, Ly Pros was accused of ordering guards to detain a ministry official who refused to give him the ministry’s seal to sign off on invitations to a job promotion ceremony other officials called unauthorized.

Cabinet Director Prak Leng, who was held at the ministry Tuesday night until UN human rights workers ushered him away, returned to work Wednes­day without incident, a ministry official said, speaking on conditions of anonymity.

Officials said Ly Pros had promoted four men—two of them to be his deputies—without the approval of the incoming Rural Development Minister Ly Thuch, a Funcinpec member.

However, Ly Pros said he had Hun Sen’s approval and would proceed with a promotion ceremony scheduled for Friday. He sent invitations out without the seal and will go ahead with the ceremony.

Ly Thuch could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but a member of his cabinet said the incoming minister would attend the ceremony.

At least one invitation has come back to Ly Pros, with the sender saying he cannot attend a ceremony if there is no official seal on the invitation.

Ly Pros rose to his position as director general despite being implicated in a double-billing scheme that bilked funds from Japan and Germany donations to “rehabilitate” rural roads that had already been fixed. Officials at the time called for his demotion.

Secretary of State Yim Chhay Ly, a CPP member, was also implicated in that scandal be­cause he oversaw six projects and requested disbursement of funds.

Ly Pros admitted in July 1999 that the ministry had submitted false documents indicating the projects were under construction rather than already completed.

Yim Chhay Ly promoted Ly Pros to his current position earlier this year.

 

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