Three female garment workers who were shot by former Bavet town governor Chhouk Bandith during a February 2012 factory demonstration called on the government yesterday to imprison the former politician, who has been on the run for three years as of today.
In June 2013, Bandith was sentenced by the Svay Rieng Provincial Court to 18 months imprisonment for firing his gun into a crowd of 6,000 workers protesting at the Kaoway Sports Factory in Bavet town’s Manhattan Special Economic Zone and subsequently injuring the three women.
He was also ordered to pay $9,500 in total compensation to the victims, but like the accused himself, the money is nowhere to be found, victims say.
“The three of us have been living for three years with injustice, so we would like to appeal to the government to seek to apprehend and jail Bandith to offer justice to us,” said Keo Near, who said she still suffers from the wounds she sustained from the shooting.
The victims believe that Bandith would already be in police custody had he shot high-ranking individuals.
“If we had power like oknhas, Chhouk Bandith might have been apprehended, but because we are factory workers, we have no power to make the government pay attention and pursue legal action,” said Near, who added that rumours abound that Bandith is living in Vietnam.
Ministry of Justice spokesman Chhin Malin, however, said that the ministry is working alongside police and Interpol to track down Bandith.
“It seems quiet, but the authorities are still continuing work to arrest the offender,” Malin said. “The job is so serious, so we cannot tell the public about the clues, because they could benefit the perpetrator, as he remains in hiding.”
The authorities’ inability to apprehend Bandith, according to Am Sam Ath, senior investigator at rights group Licadho, is a testimony to the “serious impunity in the Kingdom”.
“The authorities were not willing to seek justice for the victims, even though the court issued the arrest warrant so the perpetrator could live with freedom,” Sam Ath said. “They follow the judicial procedures to avoid public criticism, but they do not have any willingness to find justice.”