A Kampong Thom deputy provincial court prosecutor was suspended on Monday after he was accused of clearing and occupying a flooded forest in the province’s Kampong Svay district between April 13 and April 17.
The suspension was announced by Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana who sent a letter to the office of the provincial prosecutor.
In the letter, Mr Vong Vathana said that the suspended official has been charged with instigation of flooded forest and mangrove clearing or occupying flooded forest and mangrove forest.
He added that the charge stemmed from Article 28 of the Criminal Code and Article 98 of the Law on Fishery.
Mr Vong Vathana noted that the suspension was stipulated by two articles on the Law on the Status of Judges and Prosecutors.
“Based on Articles 58 and 100 of the Law, the Justice Ministry requests that the provincial prosecutor suspend deputy court prosecutor Chea Sovannthet until a court decision has been reached,” he said.
Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin yesterday said any court official who has been charged with a crime must be suspended until the case has concluded.
“This case is currently being investigated by the provincial court, so we will wait until the court has decided whether Mr Sovannthet has made a mistake or not,” Mr Malin said. “If the court decides that he is innocent, then we will allow him to return to work. But, if the court finds him guilty, then he will face imprisonment and administrative punishment – which means that he will be fired.”
Mr Malin added that even though the provincial court is handling the case, the prosecution of Mr Sovannthet could be handed to Phnom Penh Municipal Court to avoid conflict of interest.
Provincial court prosecutor Ith Sothea confirmed that the case is still being handled by his court.
“This case is under investigation; I cannot comment in detail,” Mr Sothea said.
Khorn Sokal, director of the provincial court, declined to comment yesterday.
Provincial Governor Sok Lou said the case is now being handled by the provincial court.
“I cannot evaluate this case because it is up to the court to make a decision,” Mr Lou said.
According to Article 98 on the Law on Fishery, if found guilty, Mr Sovannthet could face up to five years in prison.