Local human rights group Licadho on Tuesday accused National Police Commissioner Hok Lundy of illegally ordering the detention of a policeman involved in a land dispute with Princess Norodom Marie Ranariddh, adding that the officer has allegedly been tortured while detained.
Officials at the Interior Ministry on Tuesday did not deny holding Priep Pov, an officer in the Damnak Chang’aur district police department in Kep municipality, but said he had not been mistreated and was subject to disciplinary measures for abusing his authority.
“This is education for the officer. It has got nothing to do with the judicial system,” said Deputy National Police Chief Sau Phan.
Hok Lundy could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but Princess Marie said she had done nothing wrong.
“Of course I’m aware of this, but I am not at fault at any rate,” she said before declining further comment.
In a statement released to the press Tuesday, Licadho said Priep Pov had been arrested without a warrant Feb 18 and held at a compound used by the order police and intervention police departments.
“He has been beaten and kept shackled with handcuffs by foot and hand for at least some of that time and is in poor health, according to credible information received by Licadho,” the statement said.
The detention resulted from a dispute over land in Kep that the princess claims to own, according to Licadho.
Sau Phan said officials were disciplining Priep Pov as he had allegedly used his position as a policeman to occupy land which authorities believe belongs to the princess. Priep Pov is demanding $30,000 to leave an unspecified plot of land that he claims to have occupied since 1993, Sau Phan added.
“Princess Marie lodged a complaint with National Police Chief Hok Lundy,” he said, adding that Hok Lundy had then ordered him to settle the matter.
Priep Pov was brought once to the Interior Ministry but left unexpectedly and had to be returned to Phnom Penh in handcuffs, said Sau Phan.
“He has his freedom. He was not tortured,” Sau Phan said, but added that Priep Pov would likely be held for another two days before being released to provincial authorities in Kampot, where Princess Marie has filed a lawsuit against him.
Kampot Provincial Prosecutor Uk Kimsith said Tuesday that he had yet to receive any such complaint.
Christophe Peschoux, country representative of UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said UN rights monitors had been denied access to Priep Pov.
“From a strictly legal point of view, this detention appears illegal as the person is accused of no crime,” he said.
Police regulations on discipline allow for the demotion or expulsion, but not the detention or beating, of officers who use their position to make false claims.
However Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said that, while he had no official information about Priep Pov, police were within their rights.
“Of course we observe human rights but we also have the right to use discipline,” he said.