Government Rejects Petition to Remove Banlung City Governor

Banlung City governor Ouk Sam Ol will not be removed from his position, and an investigation will instead be launched into the veracity of a petition that called for his removal last month, the governor and other officials said Monday.

Mr. Sam Ol was publicly accused last week by CPP lawmaker Bou Lam of seizing from villagers a plot of land next to the market in the capital of Ratanakkiri province to construct new stalls and then collect rent on them.

Mr. Lam based his accusations on a petition filed last month by 211 market vendors and villagers. However, at a meeting in Banlung on Sunday, it was decided that the villagers’ calls for the removal were mistaken, said Ly Thuch, a senior government minister who chaired the meeting.

Instead, only the complaint concerning irregular collection of market fees will be examined, he said.

“The result of the meeting is a decision to set up a joint working group to investigate [the charges] because we have found that the city authority’s implementation has been to irregularly charge the vendors,” Mr. Thuch said.

“We did not talk about the removal of the Banlung City governor because the vendors told us they gave their thumbprints not to demand the governor’s removal, they only wanted to prevent the authorities from constructing the flats around the market,” he added.

“I think the people who collected the thumbprints were misunderstood, and we are now investigating to find the people, as they faked a document for the thumbprints.”

Mr. Lam, who wrote the letter calling for Mr. Sam Ol’s removal, could not be reached Monday. However, Mr. Sam Ol said he felt vindicated.

“In our preliminary investigation, we have found that the market investor faked the document to incite the vendors to protest against the [new] stall buildings, because they would lose their profits,” Mr. Sam Ol said.

However, Sa Leang, the main investor in the market, whom Mr. Sam Ol accuses of inciting the vendors to call for his removal, denied any connection with the petition and said the vendors were simply unhappy with the governor.

“I’m not involved with the vendors,” Mr. Leang said, adding that Mr. Sam Ol had recently taken over the management of the market and had instituted new and unpopular fees for the vendors.

“Mr. Sam Ol took my business and managed it himself, and the vendors are not happy with the action, as the governor charges higher prices for many taxes,” he said.

“The governor is not happy with me because I have filed complaints with state institutions, asking them to find justice for me because he violated my lawful business.”

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