Mondulkiri Provincial Court director Teang Sotha wrote a public apology letter to Ho Sethy, chief of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s cabinet on December 18, after using the cabinet chief’s name in connection to a land dispute.
“I apologise to [Ho Sethy] chief of the cabinet of [Hun Sen] for using your name and inappropriately saying that you had phoned the governor of Mondulkiri province when you actually had not.
“I admit to this mistake and please forgive me for affecting the honour of Your Excellency,” Sotha wrote in the letter.
The apology came after Ho Sethy had to issue a letter of clarification on December 17, publicly objecting to the use of his name to bring about pressure on one of the parties to a land dispute in Mondulkiri province.
The letter said that on the morning of December 17, 2021, Sethy was surprised to see a Facebook user named Pheng Vannak mention him in a post about a land dispute in Sen Monorom town in Mondulkiri province.
“Teang Sotha, the chief the Mondulkiri provincial court and the judge in charge of the case used [Sethy’s] name to pressure the landowner who was involved in the dispute to allocate the land to his associate named Sreng Vuthea, the deputy provincial prosecutor of Siem Reap, in exchange for an end to the dispute,” the post said.
The clarification letter added that Sethy denied that he had ever met Teang Sotha or Sreng Vuthea and said that he did not know the accused landowner, either.
“I do hate crooked and filthy people who commit dishonest acts that damage my reputation when I do not even know them. I strongly condemn them and call on the competent authorities to take legal action against this worthless person,” Sethy wrote in his letter of clarification.
Am Sam Ath, deputy director of rights group Licadho, said that he was sick to his stomach when he heard the case, saying that it set a bad example for law enforcement officials because it involved the head of the province’s courts.
He said that a judgment or a legal decision must be based on the facts and the law, not settled by name dropping leaders or high-ranking officials.
“First, they cannot legally do that. The law must be enforced. Second, this claim seriously affects the reputation of a high-ranking official who says he does not know anything at all about this matter in which their name is being used. Therefore, this case depends on the person affected and whether he will demand enforcement of the law in order to show transparency and fairness,” he said.
Ho Sethy could not be reached for comment on December 19.
Chin Malin, secretary of state at the Ministry of Justice, told The Post on December 19 that in legal principle any affected individuals could file a complaint to defend their rights and reputation.
“The Supreme Council of Magistracy can also examine misconduct by judges,” he said.