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Bandith appeals while on the lam

Former Bavet town governor Chhouk Bandith has appealed — from hiding — his conviction for shooting three women at a protest earlier last year, his lawyer said.

Bandith was found guilty of causing unintentional injuries by the Svay Rieng Provincial Court last month for the non-fatal shootings outside a garment factory in February last year.

His attorney, Sun Bunnarith, said that he had filed the appeal about two weeks ago, and that Bandith’s sentence of 18 months in prison and 38 million riel (around $9,500) in compensation to the victims was unfair.

“In the hearing, the court did not summon critical witnesses to corroborate, so this hearing was not comprehensive,” he said.

Neither Bandith nor his attorneys attended last month’s trial, where multiple witnesses, including a police officer, fingered the former governor as the shooter. Bandith is currently on the run and has yet to be arrested.

Victim Keo Near, who was awarded eight million riel in compensation, said that she had come to question the authorities’ commitment to finding and arresting Bandith.

“At first, I thought the justice for me was acceptable, but now I think I did not get justice,” she said.

“And I believe police know the whereabouts of Chhouk Bandith, but they do not dare to arrest him, and he has refused to be imprisoned and has appealed, calling [the decision] unjust.”

Am Sam Ath, an investigator for rights group Licadho, called the case another example of Cambodia’s culture of impunity and said the real injustice was that he was still free.

“If we talk about injustice, how are the three victims? Because he has not been in jail for even one minute, and during the trial the police officers clearly validated that he, Chhouk Bandith, was the shooter,” he said.

“Who has suffered the injustice?” he added.

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