PHNOM PENH - Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday released four officials from the Ministry of Land Management on bail, after they were charged with embezzling some $2 million that was meant to go for housing of retired soldiers and the poor.
Sareth Boramy, the ministry’s deputy director-general; Pho Vuthy, director of its finance department; Lay Tuyrithy, his deputy; and Meas Ey Sara, another employee of the finance department, were arrested earlier this month after an investigation by the government’s Anti-Corruption Unit.
Rights advocates say the release is a sign the men may never see trial, while sources close to the case say the suspects were released thanks to the influence of unnamed higher-ranking officials.
Om Yentieng, head of the ACU, said the authorities had followed procedures and he did not object to the release of the suspects on bail. “I think the case will reach the final court hearing,” he said.
Sources close to the court said judge Leang Sambath had ordered the release without giving a reason for the decision. Leang Sambath was not immediately available for comment.
Ou Virak, head of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said such releases from the court make it hard for Cambodia to stamp out corruption.
“Generally, officials who commit corruption will be freed,” he said. “And because of this, any official will dare to commit corruption because he or she won’t face punishment after being arrested.”