The Ministry of Justice is investigating several corruption complaints that have been made against officials at the Kompong Speu Provincial Court, Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana said Wednesday.
Ang Vong Vathana said that on Monday he ordered inspectors from his ministry to travel to Kompong Speu to question the provincial court as a whole, following complaints received against the court’s chief prosecutor, Kong Set.
“There are problems there,” Ang Vong Vathana said of the court. “It is related to a prosecutor, as well as the court, too…. I want to look at it all—the prosecution side and the court,” he said.
“I have received some complaints from unhappy villagers and environmental officials,” he added.
So Chanthy, one of the investigators dispatched by the minister, said that the team also included Justice Ministry Secretary of State Prum Setra and Judge Kim Sophorn, who is attached to the ministry.
So Chanthy declined to provide specific details of the corruption complaints.
“Wait; we are still working on it,” So Chanthy said, adding only that Kong Set is accused of having used “incorrect measures.”
Kong Set said he was too busy to speak to a reporter Wednesday.
Previously a judge at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, Kong Set was transferred to the prosecutor’s position in Kompong Speu in April 2007.
In August 2005, Kong Set faced condemnation from local and international rights groups when he controversially sentenced Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun to 20 years in prison for the murder of union leader Chea Vichea, a killing that many believe the accused did not commit.
Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the free legal aid organization the Cambodian Defenders Project—and who is not related to the suspect in the Chea Vichea case—said that he doubted the investigation would go very far.
“Let’s see,” Sok Sam Oeun said, “I don’t believe very much that they are serious.”
The nation’s courts, he added, have so many problems that the police could also conduct an investigation—not just the Justice Ministry.
People, in general, are fearful of the very institution entrusted with upholding the country’s laws, he said: “When people hear of the courts, they all run away. They are afraid.”