Anti-Graft Agency Seeks Evidence of Court Bribery

The head of the government’s Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) said Monday that it would investigate whether the former director of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, who was abruptly removed from his position last week, took bribes in relation to a high-profile murder case.

Ang Mealaktei was officially removed as the city’s top judge on February 17, the day after Prime Minister Hun Sen said in a speech that the municipal court may have taken millions of dollars to reverse a bail decision.

In the speech, Mr. Hun Sen noted the remarkable speed with which the court overturned its decision to deny bail to the mother and father of Major General Thong Sarath, who was charged with coordinating the November murder of businessman Ung Meng Chue.

Maj. Gen. Sarath’s parents, Thong Chamroeun and Keo Sary, were charged with illegal weapons possession following raids on their family’s Phnom Penh villas in December. They were arrested again on February 15 as they attempted to flee to Vietnam after being freed on bail.

Speaking to reporters at the ACU’s Phnom Penh headquarters Monday, Om Yentieng, the unit’s chairman, said an investigation would be launched into the general’s residential development firm, Borey 999.

“I want to go to Thong Sarath’s company and review all of its receipts,” Mr. Yentieng said, referring to Borey 999.

“After the investigation, I think Pech Prum Mony and Ang Mealaktei will answer my questions about whether they received ‘proper service,’” he added, using a Khmer-language euphemism for payments.

On Thursday, military police in Takeo province arrested Brigadier General Prum Mony, an officer in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces who was part of Mr. Mealaktei’s security detail.

National Military Police spokesman Kheng Tito said last week that the military officer’s arrest was related to the release of Maj. Gen. Sarath’s parents. Brig. Gen. Prum Mony was charged on Saturday with interference in public functions and unauthorized use of vehicles with emblems of the police or military police.

Mr. Yentieng said the ACU would also question Maj. Gen. Sarath’s mother, Ms. Sary; second wife, Teav Thyda; and lawyer, Ros Phalla.

Speaking Monday at a graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh, Mr. Hun Sen defended himself against unnamed critics who had said his February 17 speech directly influenced the judiciary, amounting to an abuse of power.

“Some people said I did good work and some people said I abused my power. I didn’t abuse my power,” he said. “But please check the three branches including the legislative, executive and judiciary. They can’t be separated.”

Mr. Hun Sen said it was civil society groups that were acting beyond their authority by telling his government how to govern.

“What are the roles of these commentators? Don’t think that because you are NGOs you can come and sit at the head of the government,” he said.

“In Cambodia, some NGOs play a role that is bigger than the parliament, the government and the court.”

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