Cambodian opposition party advisor Kong Korm has agreed to voluntarily turn over his estimated U.S.$10 million house to the government, bringing to an end a property dispute that dates back to the 1980s.
Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia since 1985, ordered that the senior advisor to the main opposition Candlelight Party, who was once Cambodia’s deputy foreign minister, vacate his home within the month, saying that it was the property of the ministry.
Kong Korm, who is the father of senior Candlelight party official Kong Monika, has been living in the home located in the heart of the capital Phnom Penh since 1982. He had maintained that the property was legally his based on land titles he received in 1990 and 2015.
The change in heart came after he and his wife met for three hours with Om Yentieng, head of Cambodia’s Anti-Corruption Unit, whom Hun Sen ordered on Wednesday to investigate the case.
"My wife and I have agreed to return the land ....in Cham Kar Mon district, Phnom Penh, back to the government,” Kong Korm wrote in a letter addressed to Om Yentieng Wednesday.
He said he made mistakes by not fully understanding the process of obtaining ownership, and he apologized for wasting the Anti-Corruption Unit’s time by causing the investigation.
“We thank the Anti-Corruption Unit and the government, specifically Prime Minister Hun Sen, who have forgiven my mistakes,” he wrote.
Hun Sen said on his Facebook account that he would take no further legal action against Kong Korm over the matter.
“I have decided not to sue him and I agree to end the case when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs repossess the house next week,” Hun Sen said.
RFA was unable to reach Kong Korm for comment as of Thursday.
Political commentator Kim Sok told RFA’s Khmer Service that in giving in to Hun Sen, Kong Korm was choosing freedom over wealth.
“The decision was made to lose wealth in order to avoid prison or threats to personal security,” said Kim Sok.
Kim Sok said that he believes Kong Korm legally owns the property, but that he may have presented a threat to Hun Sen because he knows the ruling Cambodian People’s Party inside and out as a former member, dating back to the days he was a senior government official in the 1980s and 1990s.
Legal trouble might jeopardize Kong Korm’s right to assist the Candlelight Party during the upcoming general election in July, or his son Kong Monika’s right to run for office, Kim Sok said.
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