Former Bavet town governor Chhouk Bandith is enjoying preferential treatment in prison, according to an NGO with access to the facility, while the three garment workers he was jailed for shooting have still not received compensation.
According to Nut Bopinroth, Svay Rieng provincial coordinator for rights group Licadho, Bandith is waited on and allowed considerably more freedom than other inmates at Svay Rieng Provincial Prison.
“He has someone to get water for him and he can leave his cell and stay in the library all day,” Bopinroth said, adding that other prisoners have to take turns with each other to leave the cell for recreation.
However, Svay Rieng Provincial Prison director Suos Sakhu denied that Bandith was being treated favourably, saying that he shares a 5-metre-by-6-metre cell with other 30 prisoners.
“Reading books in the library is simple, and every prisoner can do it,” he said.
Bandith is currently serving an 18-month sentence handed down to him more than two years ago for shooting the three workers as they took part in a demonstration as the Kaoway Sports factory in the Manhattan Special Economic Zone in February 2012.
After remaining at large following his conviction in absentia, he finally turned himself in on August 8 – less than a week after Prime Minister Hun Sen broke his long silence on the case to demand Bandith be brought to justice.
As well as the prison sentence, the former governor was ordered to pay his victims more than $9,000 in compensation.
But they have so far received none of the money, and yesterday called for the payment process to be speeded up.
“Justice has been done, but the compensation remains unpaid,” said Nut Sakhon, who was shot in the hand by Bandith, after he indiscriminately fired a pistol into the crowd of protesting workers.
“We need it for buying medicine and not for anything else,” she said.
Another of the victims, Keo Near, yesterday said that they have appealed to the court to force Bandith to pay the compensation.
Sakhon and Near were both shot in the hand, and are due 8 million riel (around $1,950) and 10 million riel, respectively.
The third victim, Buot Chinda, had her lung punctured by a bullet that narrowly missed her heart and is due 20 million riel.
According to the women’s lawyer, Sary Bothchakrya, the payment of the compensation will only likely be resolved once Bandrith’s appeal at the Supreme Court has been ruled on.
Kim Santepheap, a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice, yesterday said he was unaware of the status of the appeal, but said it may be resolved soon.