Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered an opposition party advisor to turn over his house to the government within a month, the latest wrinkle in a property dispute that dates back to the 1980s.
Kong Kaom, who was once Cambodia’s deputy foreign affairs minister, is the father of Kong Monika, a senior official in the main opposition Candlelight Party.
Since 1982, he has been living on property that Hun Sen claims is owned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“It is time for the ministry to take the land back,” Hun Sen wrote on his Facebook account Wednesday.
He said that although he has allowed Kong Koam to live on the property, the former deputy minister has since faked documents to try to establish ownership for himself.
A government sub decree in 1989 conferred ownership of the disputed property to him, Kong Koam told RFA’s Khmer Service on Wednesday.
“I didn’t secretly apply for the land title. I received the land titles in 1990 and 2015 for ownership of the house and land,” he said.
Kong Koam claims that Hun Sen is threatening him for his association with the Candlelight Party. The party secured around 19% of votes in last June’s nationwide local elections while Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party, or CPP, secured around 80% of the contested seats.
Kong Koam is a former member of the ruling party, but he changed his political affiliations in the 1990s, when he returned home after a stint as Cambodia’s ambassador to Vietnam.
He said that despite the threats, he will remain a supporter of the opposition.
“I love democracy,” he said. “I won’t support the ruling party [in exchange] for my house and clemency.”
Meanwhile, the ruling party’s office in the southeastern province of Tboung Khmum filed a defamation suit against Kong Koam over comments he made during a recent speech to Candlelight Party members, where he mocked the CPP by alleging that it has origins in Vietnam.
According to the suit, the comments were an attempt by Kong Koam to incite chaos.
The CPP asked the court to prosecute Kong Koam and fine him U.S.$500,000 in compensation for damages.
Kong Koam maintains that his comments did not incite anyone.
“I want to raise awareness about my opponents. The CPP doesn’t want us to raise any issues that [negatively] affect them,” he said. “Hun Sen has reacted and asked [other parties] not to say anything that hurts the CPP.”
The lawsuit is an attempt to disrupt the upcoming general elections, scheduled for late July, said Am Sam Ath of the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights.
He urged the ruling party to forgive the comments, engage in dialogue with the opposition and avoid lawsuits “to have a good environment so the election will be recognized as free, fair and just.”
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