Three former members of the funeral committee for slain political analyst Kem Ley were charged with breach of trust by Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday.
According to a warrant signed by deputy prosecutor Kuch Kimlong, the municipal court decided to open the investigation into the case and charge the Venerable But Buntenh, 37, Pa Ngoun Teang, 45, and rights worker Moeun Tola, 43.
Ven Buntenh, founder of the Independent Monk Social Network, and Mr Ngoun Teang, executive director of the Cambodian Centre for Independent Media, have already fled the country.
In September, the leader of the Cambodian Youth Party Pich Sros filed a complaint against the three over their handling of funds raised for the funeral and a stupa for Mr Ley’s one-year anniversary ceremony.
A second summons was issued in October, asking each to appear for questioning over breach of trust accusations on November 7 and 8.
Ven Buntenh said on his Facebook page in September that the spurious actions being taken by Mr Sros and the court were bringing shame against the honour of Mr Ley’s legacy.
“Mr Sros’ actions are killing the reputation of Kem Ley,” he said at the time.
The court warrant said at least $300,000 had been raised by the committee for the funeral and stupa but his family had yet to receive any money.
It claimed Mr Ley’s family only received $6,000 from various people, $50,000 from Prime Minister Hun Sen and about $750 from Mr Sros.
Mr Tola, executive director of rights group Central, said he was currently in Cambodia.
“I’m still discussing this with my lawyer,” he said when asked about the charges.
Mr Ngoun Teang’s lawyer Sam Chamroeun said there was no strong legal basis to the charge because it was based solely on the complaint of Mr Sros.
“I will find the evidence to exculpate my client,” he said.
Sao Kosal, a former member of the funeral committee and now chief of Mr Ley’s stupa construction committee, could not understand why the court had charged the men because the funeral committee had given the funds directly to Mr Ley’s family.
“I don’t know what the court based the charges on. It’s unreasonable,” Mr Kosal said. “I don’t think the court should have charged them.”
Mr Sros said the court had the power to charge the men because he had already filed the complaint.
“If the court found evidence to charge them, please implement the law,” he said.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesman Ly Sophana declined to comment.