Justice Minister, Opposition Talk Pretrial Detention, Khaou Case

Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana met on Friday with the National Assembly’s opposition-led human rights commission to discuss issues related to judicial independence and court procedure, including government interference in the court system and abuse of the pretrial detention system.

CNRP lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang, the chairman of the commission, said the three-hour closed-door meeting looked at procedural issues including excessive periods of pretrial detention, especially for minors, and the processes used to resolve land-dispute cases.

CNRP lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang, left, walks into a meeting at the National Assembly in Phnom Penh on Friday ahead of Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
CNRP lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang, left, walks into a meeting at the National Assembly in Phnom Penh on Friday ahead of Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Mr. Vong Vathana said the meeting had delved into general issues of judicial reform as well as specific cases that had come to the attention of the commission.

“In general, when a case arrives in court, it belongs to the court, so I only have the right to ask the court to speed up or ask for a review,” he said.

One case discussed during the meeting was the immensely complicated family dispute between two factions of the wealthy Khaou family, which has been wending its way through the court system for half a decade.

Most recently, Khaou Phallaboth, the son of construction magnate Khaou Chuly, was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Thursday for plotting to rape and murder his niece and sister—who is married to Commerce Minister Sun Chanthol. Mr. Phallaboth’s stepmother, Khaou Seng Chanda, has also been sentenced to 20 years over the plot—which never came to fruition—and is currently in jail.

Mr. Chhay Eang said he had requested a pardon for Ms. Seng Chanda and asked Mr. Vong Vathana to review the case of Mr. Phallaboth and his co-defendant and ex-girlfriend, Lay Houng.

“When they appeal, the justice minister has to find justice for them because this case received interest from the public,” he said.

Mr. Vathana declined to comment on the Khaou case.

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