Pursat Prosecutor Arrested by Anti-Graft Officers

In what are believed to be the first arrests made by officials from the new Anticorruption Unit, Pursat Provincial Court chief prosecutor Tob Chan Sereivuth and several associates were taken into custody yesterday to face unspecified charges, officials said.

Pursat provincial governor Khoy Sokha said ACU chairman Om Yentieng personally led a team of anticorruption officers to arrest Mr Chan Sereivuth, his two bodyguards and his wife at 7:30 am yesterday morning.

Mr Sokha said provincial officials were made aware of the arrests when Mr Yentieng gave an address at provincial government offices in Pursat City at 9 am.

“Mr Om Yentieng told us today that his ACU teams arrested the Pursat provincial chief prosecutor Tob Chan Sereivuth, but he would not reveal the reasons of the arrest,” Mr Sokha said.

National Council for Anticorruption spokesman Keo Remy yesterday referred questions about the arrests to Mr Yentieng. “Mr Om Yentieng is the one who went over there to Pursat…so we will wait until he reports to the National Council for Anticorruption,” he said.

However, Mr Yentieng said he was too busy to speak to a reporter. “One minute of my time is very important while I am questioning the suspects. Please stop disturbing me and let me finish my work first,” he said.

Cabinet Minister Sok An told reporters at a news conference yesterday afternoon that he was aware of Mr Chan Sereivuth’s arrest but could not comment any further.

“For the prosecutor, I am respectful of the [need for] transparency, and we will announce [details] in the appropriate time,” Mr Sok An said.

After the promulgation of the Anticorruption Law earlier this year, the first 14 officers of the ACU were sworn into their offices in late August, vested with judicial police powers and authorized to begin investigating corruption immediately.

Pursat provincial police chief Sarun Chanthy said his officers had not been involved in yesterday’s operation. Mr Yentieng’s “teams were working independently to arrest chief prosecutor Tob Chan Sereivuth without the cooperation of our Pursat provincial policemen,” Mr Chanthy said.

Nget Theavy, provincial coordinator for the human rights group Adhoc, said she had followed the investigation yesterday and found that Mr Chan Sereivuth’s wife was released by ACU officials yesterday afternoon.

SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said he was unaware of the arrests in Pursat but welcomed news that the ACU had taken action to fight corruption.

“If the arrests are confirmed, then we will welcome that. But I urge the ACU to do more investigating, especially into the corruption that is occurring with the sale of state property,” he said.

In February 2009, Mr Chan Sereivuth was allegedly involved in a land dispute case that was mysteriously moved to his court from Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court, where he was formerly a judge.

The case, which involved four villager representatives from Banteay Meanchey’s O’Chrou district who were arrested in 2008 for alleged property destruction during a protest, was originally with the Banteay Meanchey court but was transferred to the Pursat court based on a letter from the Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana.

The men charged in the case were protesting over a decade-long land dispute between 170 families and the plaintiff, the National Development Agriculture Association.

Ouk Sophan, secretary-general of the association, confirmed at the time that Mr Chan Sereivuth was to receive 2 hectares of the land after the dispute is resolved.

The Pursat court, however, discharged itself of the case because the dispute it was situated outside its jurisdiction.

(Additional reporting by Mark Worley and Neou Vannarin)

 

 

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