Human rights workers are investigating allegations that an RCAF officer has been detained since March 1 at Brigade 911 paratroopers’ headquarters in Kandal province over a private property dispute.
Lieutenant Phork Sambath, 39, was allegedly arrested two weeks ago by more senior paratroopers who demanded that he accept $3,000 in return for vacating his home in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kok district, Cambodian Center for Human Rights investigator Chun Socheat said Wednesday.
The house belongs to Phork Sambath’s uncle, Srey Vath, a US resident, who earlier this year accused his nephew of trying to claim ownership of the home.
Srey Vath allegedly took the dispute to his nephew’s commanding officer, Major-General Chap Pheakdei, and Phork Sambath was detained soon afterward, said Im Kanha, the wife of the incarcerated soldier. “It is a domestic dispute. Detention inside the paratrooper [headquarters] is illegal,” Chun Socheat said.
Phork Sambath appears to be faced with either accepting the $3,000 or continuing to be detained, he said, adding that the case must be taken to military Commander-in-Chief Ke Kim Yan.
Staff members of CCHR, Licadho, Adhoc and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights have been prevented from visiting the detained officer, Chun Socheat added.
Im Kanha said she has lodged a complaint with Kandal Provincial Court seeking the release of her husband and for charges to be brought against 911 Commander Chap Pheakdei.
“I want them to release my husband,” Im Kanha said. She denied that her husband had conspired to gain ownership of his uncle’s house, where they had been allowed to live for free since 2001.
Chap Pheakdei could not be reached for comment on Wednesday. Suos Chamroeun, chief of 911’s Bureau II, confirmed that Phork Sambath was in detention but declined to specify the reason. He denied the punishment was over disputed property.
“He violated the internal rules of the unit,” Suos Chamroeun said, adding that the detainee was frequently absent from his post.
Kandal Court’s Chief Prosecutor Huot Vuthy said he was investigating and declined further comment.