The wives of two men jailed in February over a land dispute have filed a complaint with local rights group Adhoc alleging that a Ratanakkiri Provincial Court judge asked for money for the men’s release, Adhoc said Thursday.
The wives of Yeak Lom commune schoolmaster Chhoeun Ampoeul and CPP commune chief Byang Beb claimed in a written complaint filed with Adhoc Thursday that Judge An Samnang asked for $2,500 earlier this month through his court clerk and then personally asked for $3,250 Tuesday.
Contacted by telephone, An Samnang denied any wrongdoing and said that the money he requested from the Banlung district families was to be used as bail to release the men before the trial.
“I already explained to [the families] that the money is not for paying the court but was needed to use as a deposit to release [the men] on bail,” he said. “Their allegation is really damaging my reputation,” he added.
An Samnang said that he would sue newspapers if they printed incorrect information regarding the allegations against him.
Pen Bonnar, provincial coordinator for Adhoc, said that he will forward the women’s complaint to the Justice Ministry, the Supreme Council of Magistracy, and Prime Minister Hun Sen after Sunday’s commune elections to ask for an investigation into the allegations.
Chhoeun Ampoeul and Byang Beb were jailed on Feb 19 for allegedly burning down property on a plot of land, which they claimed belonged to the Yeak Lom Primary School.
Chhoeun Ampoeul’s wife Tok Tin said by telephone that An Samnang had warned her and Byang Beb’s wife Teng Ak against going public with their accusations.
“The judge also [told] us not to report to media organizations, lawyers or any NGOs,” she said.
An Samnang declined to say whether he had instructed the women not to go public, but added that he had decided on Thursday morning to no longer grant bail to the two men because it would disrupt the court’s investigation.