Ministry Removes Military Prosecutions Chief

The co-ministers of Defense have temporarily relieved the commanding officer of the ministry’s Military Prosecutions De­partment after dozens of his underlings complained recently of corruption and heavy-handed rule, according to a letter ob­tained last week.

The letter, dated Thursday, states that Major General Sao Sok has been replaced by Kim Huon, his former deputy. The letter was signed by co-Ministers of Defense Tea Banh and Prince Sisowath Sirirath, neither of whom could be reached for comment Sunday.

The transfer comes days after 41 soldiers assigned to duty at the department thumbprinted a petition to the ministers demanding Sao Sok’s ouster. The soldiers have accused Sao Sok of skimming bonuses that were supposed to go to officers, conning the government on a land deal in which he took money and part of the land parcel and of taking seven more bodyguards than he was legally permitted.

According to the soldiers, the military prosecution chief also took money from the food budget for Khmer Rouge chieftains Ta Mok and Duch—the only two cadre of the Pol Pot regime currently in custody.

Sao Sok has denied the allegations, but could not be reached for comment on Sunday. He said last week that the accusations came from disgruntled employees who were not happy because he was a demanding boss.

The letter ordering Sao Sok’s suspension does not say when it would be lifted and makes no mention of the allegations of his employees. However, Prince Sirirath last week said his ministry was conducting an investigation into the case.

News of the suspension was well met among some of Sao Sok’s critics, including their leader, Lieutenant Colonel Un Sophal.

“Even Ta Mok is very happy,” Un Sophal said.

Kim Houn on Sunday pledged himself to fighting corruption and the pressuring of employees, but also promised to uphold discipline in the ranks.

“We will have to maintain discipline, as long as we don’t abuse soldiers’ rights,” Kim Houn said.


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