Justice Minister Intervenes in Court Ruling on R’kiri Land

Justice Minister Ang Vong Vattana has ordered Ratanakkiri Provincial Court to delay implementing a recent decision by the Supreme Court ordering a high-ranking officials to hand over land in Banlung City to his estranged wife, court officials said yesterday.

Last week Ratanakkiri Provincial Court sent more than 30 police, military police and RCAF soldiers to evict ten families who were living on a 25-meter by 65-meter plot of land in Banlung’s Laban Siek commune.

The provincial court had ordered the land vacated as it belonged to Kuy Yan, the wife of Suong Piseth, the former director of the provincial department of public works. Mr Piseth also claims ownership of the land.

In a letter dated Oct 22, Justice Minister Ang Vong Vattana told Ratanakkiri Provincial Court to temporarily halt implementing the Supreme Court eviction order from June, as Mr Piseth had lodged a complaint over the verdict and had called on the court to reinvestigate and rehear the case.

“The ministry would like the Provincial Court President and prosecutor to look into the proposal” to halt eviction order until the Supreme Court had handled Mr Piseth’s complaint, the letter said.

Mr Piseth could not be reached for comment yesterday, but in a letter to the Ministry of Justice dated Oct 15 he had requested delaying the eviction order, as he argued he had given the disputed land to his brother Doeurn Chan to settle a $6,000 debt, after which Mr Chan sold the land to nine local families.

He wrote that the court verdict “is not correct,” as he still owned the land, which he acquired from Ratanakkiri provincial authorities in 1996. Mr Piseth wrote that because he is in the process of divorcing his wife, the court’s eviction order “harms my interest in dividing our properties.”

Ms Yan has claimed ownership of the land since 2005 and has won court battles over the land at Ratanakkiri Provincial Court, the Appeals Court and at the Supreme Court. She could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Ratanakkiri Provincial Court deputy prosecutor Ros Saram, who had started carrying out the eviction ordered by the Supreme Court last week, said so far only one family had been evicted.

“I could not comment on whether we are going to halt the Supreme Court’s eviction order as the Minister of Justice requested,” he said.

Lou Sou Sambath, Ratanakkiri Provincial Court director, said the minister’s intervention was legally sound.

“When the Ministry of Justice inspects through its inspection process, the minister can intervene at the court… for a temporary suspension to ensure justice is offered to all parties involved,” he said.

Nuon Mol, a provincial police officer who claims he had bought part of the disputed land, said he was glad for the minister’s intervention. Mr Mol said more investigation was required before the Supreme Court could rule in the long-running case.

“Basically the court’s decision… was made without proper investigation,” he said.

Minister of Justice Vong Vattana could not be reached for comment yesterday on his decision to intervene in the case.

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