Senior Ratanakkiri Judge Dismissed for Graft Charge

The Supreme Council of Magis­tracy dismissed a senior Ratanak­kiri Provincial Court official after investigating allegations that he demanded cash from a plaintiff in return for fast-tracking her case through the court, officials said Tuesday.

Norng Sok, the court’s deputy director who stepped down Friday, was ordered to retire early by King Norodom Sihamoni—who chairs the council—in a Feb 16 letter.

Norng Sok, a CPP member, confirmed Tuesday that he asked for $100 from plaintiff Sovann Phann in September 2005 in return for hearing her case quickly. “It was not an extortion. It was an understanding,” he maintained, add­ing that he never in fact receiv­ed the money.

Supreme Council of Magistracy member Hanrot Raken said the council investigated Norng Sok then disciplined him by forcing him to retire. The decision “was in­volved with [Norng Sok’s] judgement on suspects,” Hanrot Raken said, though he declined to elaborate.

In a letter to the Ratanakkiri court dated Feb 27, 2006, Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana said the ministry had received a complaint from Sovann Phann claiming that Norng Sok had extorted $100 from her.

Sovann Phann said she had visited the court to ask when her complaint would be heard against a neigh­bor who had allegedly burn­ed down her home, Ang Vong Va­th­ana wrote.

Sovann Phum reportedly paid $200 to a middleman to speak to Norng Sok on her behalf. But when Sovann Phann later contacted Norng Sok, he allegedly told her that he had only received $150 of that sum and wanted more, Ang Vong Vathana wrote.

The minister ordered the court to take action, though Norng Sok was to remain in his job for at least one more year.

Ya Narin, the court’s director, maintained Tues­day that he knew nothing about the case.

Pen Bonnar, provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, said that several people have filed complaints with Adhoc claiming that Norng Sok released suspects on bail under dubious circumstances. These include several murder suspects who remain free, Pen Bonnar claimed.

Norng Sok denied handling any other cases in an improper manner.


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