The Ratanakkiri Provincial Court has removed Judge Yar Narin as investigating judge for the civil lawsuit filed by ethnic Jarai villagers against Finance Minister Keat Chhon’s sister Keat Kolney over 450 hectares of disputed land.
Lawyers from NGOs Community Legal Education Center and Legal Aid of Cambodia, which represent the villagers, filed a motion with the court in August to remove Yar Narin, who is also the court’s director and a judge for the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s Supreme Court Chamber, accusing him of bias and inaction.
Court Deputy Director Thor Saran, the only other judge at the court, said Wednesday that Yar Narin had been removed from the case, but had not sent the case files to him despite having been ordered to do so in August.
Thor Saran said that he would meet Yar Narin today to discuss the delay.
“[Yar Narin] said that it would be after the Pchum Ben,” he said, adding that he was willing to handle the case once it was forwarded to him.
“I want to be clear that it will be done on time,” Thor Saran said, adding that Yar Narin would also be barred from presiding over this case in the future.
Thor Saran said that the case, which was filed in January 2007, would see further delays because the disputed land in O’Yadaw district’s Pate commune is difficult to get to in the rainy season.
Yar Narin said Wednesday he had sent the case over to Thor Saran and declined further comment.
CLEC attorney Sourng Sophea claimed Wednesday that Yar Narin had done nothing to advance the case.
“[Yar Narin] might have been afraid to make any decision because one side is indigenous people who are protected by the law and the other side is powerful,” Sourng Sophea said. “We hope that the new judge will handle the case quickly.”
Keat Kolney’s lawyer, Chhe Vibol, said that changing the judge would not have an effect on the case.