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Former Bavet town governor Chhouk Bandith (centre) exits Phnom Penh’s Appeal Court in March
Former Bavet town governor Chhouk Bandith (centre) exits Phnom Penh’s Appeal Court in March. HENG CHIVOAN

Bandith lawyer ‘in dark’

The lawyer of wanted fugitive Chhouk Bandith yesterday said key witnesses had not been summonsed to an appeal hearing of the sentencing of the powerful former Bavet town governor, scheduled for Thursday.

Defence lawyer Sun Bannarith told the Post he had found out about the hearing from the media and claimed not to know where his client was hiding out.

“I have yet to receive any information on the Appeal Court [hearing] besides getting questions from reporters.… I cannot say where my client is because he hasn’t told me where he is either,” he said.

The Svay Rieng Provincial Court in June ordered Bandith to serve an 18-month prison term and pay 38 million riel ($9,500) in compensation to three victims who were shot during a protest of thousands of workers outside the Kaoway Sports factory, a supplier to Puma in Svay Rieng’s Manhattan Special Economic Zone.

Though numerous witnesses confirmed they had seen Bandith shooting into the crowd of demonstrators on February 20 last year, he was never arrested.

Bannarith said the latest court proceedings would not be fair, because key witnesses had not been called to appear.

“The court did not summons key witnesses to clarify [what happened],” Bannarith said. “So this hearing is not comprehensive.”

Presiding judge Nget Sarath said that all of the summonses had already been issued for the hearing.

“We will hold the hearing as scheduled and nothing will be changed,” he said.

Keo Near, one of the women shot at the factory protest, said she would attend the hearing despite still suffering discomfort from her wounds.

“For justice to be served, arrest and put Chhouk Bandith in jail. Now we don’t know where Chhouk Bandith’s shadow is. Filing a case against the rich is extremely difficult,” she said.

Am Sam Ath, a senior investigator at rights group Licadho, accused authorities of not pursuing Bandith as they would a less-powerful defendant.

“If it was not Chhouk Bandith, he would have been jailed long ago,” he said.

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