Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday placed a former director of the Preah Sihanouk provincial land management department in pre-trial detention after he was charged with abuse of power and committing forestry crimes during his two-year stint in office.
Court spokesman Y Rin identified him as Noun Bouk, who was arrested by the Anti-Corruption Unit at his residence in Sihanoukville’s Bei commune on Sunday.
“The judge has decided to detain him and send him to PJ prison,” Mr Rin said. “We are working on his case.”
He said the court charged the suspect with “false declaration, abuse of power and [committing] natural resources [crimes]” under Articles 35 of the Law on Corruption, 42 and 56 of the Law on Protected Areas and 633 of the Criminal Code.
If convicted, Bouk could face up to 22 years in prison and be made to pay a fine of up to about $41,000.
ACU chairman Om Yentieng could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Mr Yentieng on Wednesday told Khmer Times, Bouk was arrested over suspicion of corruption during his stint as director from March 23, 2016 to March 1, 2018. Bouk was being questioned by ACU agents over alleged abuse of power and corruption.
The ACU’s website said he was questioned about bribing unnamed ministry officials for the director position, adding Bouk was also grilled over alleged extortion and unjustified removal of a subordinate.
San Chey, executive director of Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, yesterday said arresting a sub-national official is not enough to stamp out corruption in the Kingdom because it is systematic.
“This is a very small case if compared to other corruption cases happening on the sub-national level,” Mr Chey said. “Corruption makes people unhappy.”
“[Bouk] could not have done it alone if a high-ranking ministry official did not allow it,” he added. “I suggest [the ACU] further investigate to identify people who were involved.”
He said the government needs to monitor civil servants on the sub-national level because many of them work directly for citizens.
“Aside from arrests, the government must seize [assets] to discourage everyone [from corruption],” Mr Chey said.