Gov’t Hands Down Ruling in Market Dispute

A bitter dispute over the development of the main market in Ratanakkiri province’s Banlung City, which has pitted the city’s governor against a well-connected CPP lawmaker, was resolved by the Council of Ministers earlier this month in favor of the complainant, a wealthy businessman who had received a contract to develop the market.

The businessman, Sa Leang, had been given the right to develop the market before the current governor, Ouk Sam Ol, was appointed in 2014. Once in office, Mr. Sam Ol allegedly tried to take over managing the market and seized a strip of land adjacent to the building that had been granted to villagers by Prime Minister Hun Sen, sparking protests among vendors.

The governor’s actions led Mr. Leang to enlist CPP lawmaker Bou Lam, the younger brother of powerful former Defense Minister Bou Thang, in his fight. Mr. Lam and Mr. Leang jointly filed complaints in April with the Council of Ministers and the Interior Ministry against Mr. Sam Ol.

“If you want to hit a dog, you must learn who the owner is first,” Mr. Lam said at the time, explaining his decision to step in.

According to a decision dated September 22 and obtained Monday, the Council of Ministers has ruled in favor of the businessman.

The disputed strip of land will be used as a parking area, in accordance with Mr. Leang’s plan, according to the decision, which also ordered the establishment of two separate committees with provincial- and national-level oversight to ensure the market is properly developed.

The Council of Ministers also canceled a contract the governor had made with a trash-collecting company. It declined to address a separate petition calling for Mr. Sam Ol’s ouster, referring the question to the Interior Ministry.

Mr. Leang, Mr. Lam and Mr. Sam Ol could not be reached Monday. However, deputy provincial governor Nhem Sam Oeun said the governor would retain his job.

“We will not remove the Banlung City governor, Ouk Sam Ol, from his position, because he has done nothing wrong. We will just educate him,” he said.

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