Premier singles out corruption case involving first cousin
Prime Minister Hun Sen said in a speech yesterday that his relatives would be held accountable for any wrongdoing and singled out an ongoing corruption case involving his cousin.
The premier said the cousin should face the maximum punishment if found guilty, although the trial was delayed for a third time yesterday.
“I would like to express alarm that among [my] family there might be some members involved with” wrongdoing, the premier said at a groundbreaking for an overpass in Phnom Penh. “If there were, then there would be no exception. I must implement the law regardless of any nephews of the prime minister.”
“The law is the law,” Mr Hun Sen continued. “Law does not give exception to any relatives. If talking about an individual who is close with the law, but has violated the law, the aggravation should be greater.
“For example, if the law called for between five years minimum and eight years maximum, [sentence to] eight years,” Mr Hun Sen said, referring to Dy Proem, a cousin in a land dispute struck by corruption allegations.
Ms Proem was scheduled to be tried yesterday, Mr Hun Sen said, adding: “Please try her according to the law.” Mr Hun Sen also said that he had declined to intervene in the case after Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana asked for charges to be dropped in a September letter.
Dy Proem, a businesswoman and Mr Hun Sen’s first cousin, has been charged with paying $30,000 to influence the investigation of a land dispute involving 120 families. Seng Yean, the former deputy director-general of inspection at the Ministry of National Assembly-Senate Relations and Inspections, was charged with taking the bribe.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Duch Kimsorn delayed yesterday’s trial, granting requests sent by the two defendants and their lawyers, who failed to appear. Ms Proem’s lawyers said they were busy in a letter, while Mr Yean wrote that he was bedridden.
“This case is the criminal case, that’s why the court cannot hear it without the presence of the defending lawyers,” said Mr Kimsorn, who did not immediately reschedule the trial.
Huot Sarom, a landowner involved in the dispute, expressed frustration with the repeated delays.
“I am poor and it is difficult to come to the court and it is useless if the court does not follow the law,” she said at the courthouse. “The court should be knocked down. It is useless for it to continue.”
Her lawyer, Kao Ty, called the absence of the defendants “just another trick to delay the justice.” He also said Mr Vong Vathana’s request to drop the charges represented “serous wrongdoing.”
Mr Vong Vathana could not be reached for comment.
Mam Sitha, director of the Cambodia Independent Anticorruption Committee, said there was insufficient reason for another delay.
“There is not enough reason to delay the hearing because the court summons for the hearing was announced more than long enough ago,” Ms Sitha said.
Lawyers for the defendants were unavailable yesterday, while Long Norin, a lawyer representing the Ministry of National Assembly-Senate Relations and Inspection, said he supported the postponement but declined to elaborate.
Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said yesterday’s speech by Mr Hun Sen was a “warning to his relatives” and encouraged “law enforcement officials to act according to the law.”
Yesterday’s speech by Mr Hun Sen echoed one he gave last December, when he told relatives not to abuse their positions. In yesterday’s speech, Mr Hun Sen delved into particulars, pleading with an errant nephew to return to his wife and citing the example of another nephew who he said had already “corrected himself.”
“Chea, my nephew, please return home,” Mr Hun Sen said, referring to Hun Chea, who he said had run away from his wife with another woman. “Your wife and children are awaiting you. The new girl, please quickly distance yourself from Chea because he already has his wife.”
Mr Hun Sen ordered General Neth Savoeun, the National Police Commissioner, his nephew by marriage, to find and bring Mr Chea to him, saying he would then organize a family meeting.
Mr Hun Sen cited the example of another nephew, Hun To, who made headlines in 2008 for allegedly threatening the editor of a pro-SRP newspaper, a charge he denied. He did not mention another nephew, Nhim Sophea, convicted but later secretly acquitted of a 2003 shooting that left two people dead.
“To already corrected himself but Chea has not,” Mr Hun Sen said. “If I do not bring them back on time, then it would be too late.”