The Supreme Court yesterday refused to hear an appeal filed by three garment workers shot by disgraced Bavet town governor Chhouk Bandith during a 2012 demonstration, since Bandith’s lawyer did not turn up to court.
Bandith was sentenced to 18 months in prison in June last year for the Kaoway Sports factory shootings in Bavet, but he remains in hiding.
He was ordered to pay $9,500 in total compensation to the victims, but they are asking for the Supreme Court to change that to $45,000.
The lawyer for Bandith has also filed an appeal against his sentence, which was originally handed down by the Svay Rieng Provincial Court and later upheld by the Court of Appeal.
Yesterday’s court’s decision left his victims – Buot Chenda, Keo Near and Nuth Sakhorn – once again bemoaning the ability of Bandith’s powerful connections to thwart their quest for justice.
“If Chhouk Bandith did not appear but his lawyer did, we would hear the case. But he did not, so we cannot question [anyone],” explained presiding judge Kong Srim.
But Near, who was shot in the shoulder by Bandith, said the women could not accept that the lower courts had decided their lives “were worth just 38 million riel [$9,500]”.
“We took leave from work in the provinces in the hope of justice, but now the justice is still so damn far away because he is super rich and is always delaying things,” she said.
The women’s lawyer urged the court to expedite the hearing given the appeal had been filed over nine months ago.
“The defendant’s lawyer should not have used the pretext that he is busy,” Serey But Chakrya said.
Kay Visal, Bandith’s lawyer, declined to comment when reached, saying he was “driving a long way” and did not wish to speak on the phone.
Interior Ministry and police spokespeople could not be reached.