Mystery Looms Over Director’s Dismissal From Post

An official from the Ministry of Land Management was removed from his post as director of the min­istry’s Phnom Penh department without explanation Wed­nes­day, officials said.

Chhuon Sothy’s dismissal comes after the publication of his let­ter in two Khmer-language news­papers this week regarding the government exchanging land inside the Royal Palace city block with a private company.

The dismissal order was signed Wednesday by Minister of Land Management Im Chhun Lim who named Chhay Rithisen, the de­part­ment’s deputy director, as Chhuon Sothy’s re­placement.

Attempts to contact Im Chhun Lim for comment were unsuccessful Wednesday. Chea Sophara, se­c­retary of state for the ministry, also could not be reached.

Chhuon Sothy had a letter—da­ted Friday and bearing his signature and his department’s seal—pub­lished in Rasmei Kampuchea on Monday, and Koh Santepheap on Tuesday.

He said the purpose of the letter was to clarify information that was reported by The Cambodia Daily and broadcast by Voice of Ameri­ca.

The Cambodia Daily wrote in August that the Ministry of In­terior had signed over to Phani­mex Co Ltd the lot occupying the southwest corner of the Royal Pa­lace block and used by its Lo­gis­tics De­partment. The land was traded for new facilities to be built by Phanimex in Meanchey district, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

“The Royal Government did not sell or swap land that is royal pro­per­ty at all,” Chhuon Sothy wrote in the ad, adding that the land be­longed to the Ministry of Interior.

Chhuon Sothy declined to comment on his dismissal Wednes­day.

At the ceremony held at City Hall on Wednesday to mark the ap­pointment of Chhay Rithisen, min­istry officials said Chhuon Sothy’s removal had nothing to do with the publication of the ad.

Mam Bun Neang, Phnom Penh’s first deputy governor, said this was strictly a Ministry of Land Man­agement matter.

Opposition lawmaker Son Ch­hay said Wednesday that Ch­huon Sothy is only a low-ranking pu­blic ser­vant who follows orders, and that high officials who authorized the land swap should be investigated.


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