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Ex-governor sentenced for Puma factory shootings

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Former Bavet town governor Chhouk Bandith at the Appeal Court in Phnom Penh in March. HENG CHIVOAN

Ex-governor sentenced for Puma factory shootings

FORMER Bavet town governor Chhouk Bandith was found guilty Tuesday morning of unintentional violence in the February 2012 shooting of three protesting garment workers and sentenced to 18 months in prison. The court ordered Bandith, who is not in custody, to be arrested today.

Svay Rieng Provincial Court presiding judge Leang Sour also ordered Bandith to pay compensation totaling 38 million riel ($9,500) to the three victims.

Unintentional violence charges against Bavet town criminal police chief, Sar Chantha, were dropped, though the officer was found guilty of illegal weapons use. He was fined 1 million riel ($250) and sentenced to six months' probation.

Buot Chenda, Keo Near and Nuth Sakhorn were shot during a violent protest last year at Puma supplier Kaoway Sports factory. The three women were among more than 6,000 workers from the Manhattan Special Economic Zone calling for better working conditions.

Though Bandith was later implicated in the shooting by none other than Minister of Interior Sar Kheng, the case had bounced among multiple courts for 18 months, and was repeatedly buried.

In December, the same court officials who sentenced Bandith on Tuesday quietly dropped the charges. The case was heard only after an Appeal Court prosecutor made the unprecedented move of ordering the charges reinstated.

Bandith was not at court, nor had he appeared at any of the hearings held earlier this month after his lawyers cited a technical error in the summons. It is unclear what efforts prosecutors and police will take to arrest the powerful local official, who until now has evaded all
punishment.

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