Official Jailed for Fraud Released for Wedding

The Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court on Wednesday ordered the release of a former government official and convicted fraudster from prison so he could attend his daughter’s wedding, court officials said.

Tou Thean Teu, who was deputy governor of Banteay Meanchey until 2007, was arrested last week over a February conviction stemming from fraud committed in 2004 but spent only a week in jail before being let out again.

“The judge decided to release him on bail on Monday to join his child’s wedding party,” said Uk Saran, the clerk for Judge Mam Chanvanak.

“He has paid bail of 270,000 Baht [about $7,500] to the court,” Mr. Saran said, declining to comment further.

The former official, who has been dogged for years by accusations of corruption from other officials, businesspeople and locals, was sentenced to one year in prison for fraud, though details of the case have not been made public.

Phann Vanroth, chief provincial prosecutor, said the upcoming wedding was not the only reason for the court’s decision to release Mr. Thean Teu.

“It was a misdemeanor case,” he said. “He has a serious illness with his liver. He has bond money…and another reason is his child’s wedding next month.”

Mr. Vanroth added that Mr. Thean Teu was convicted in absentia and had requested a retrial, allowing him to seek bail despite having already been sentenced to prison time.

“If he escapes, the court will issue an arrest warrant,” he said.

Mr. Thean Teu’s lawyer, Ty Sokha, also said his client’s crime had not been serious.

“It was small money he owed to a businessman,” said Mr. Sokha, adding that he did not remember the name of the plaintiff in the case.

Sok Sam Oeun, a prominent attorney currently representing a plaintiff in a separate complaint against Mr. Thean Teu, said that while legally permissible, the reasons for the former official’s release were highly unusual.

“According to the law, the judge can do it, but in practice I’ve never seen like it,” he said. “It’s very rare it happens like that. Mostly they deny.”

Soum Chankea, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said it was the first time he had heard of a convicted prisoner being released on such grounds.

“Releasing someone on bail because of the business of a child’s wedding—that we have never heard of,” Mr. Chankea said.

(Additional reporting by Taylor O’Connell)

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