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Justice demanded as Bandith hearing nears

A court official yesterday insisted today’s scheduled hearing of former Bavet town governor Chhouk Bandith would go ahead as planned, but stopped short of saying what punishment Bandith might face should he fail to show again.

“We will not delay it any longer and Chhouk Bandith must show up in the court room,” Svay Rieng provincial court prosecutor Hing Bunchea said.

On May 21, a scheduled hearing of Bandith’s case was postponed after neither he nor his lawyers appeared at court. The powerful former governor stands accused of shooting three garment workers during a factory protest in February 2012 in a case that has since bounced between courts with little hint at resolution.

Victims and rights workers said yesterday they would – once again – appear at court in the hope the trial might go forward. But, they admitted, they held little hope for a just resolution.

“If Chhouk Bandith is not present, I cannot hope to get justice because the court takes the side of only the rich,” said Keo Near, one of the three young women shot during the protest for better working conditions.

Nuth Sakhorn, who was also shot in the melee, said she too intended to appear and had already purchased baby formula for her newborn daughter in order that she might be able to attend the hearings.

“To seek justice, I must struggle and my baby must struggle as well when we live apart for a few days so that I can face Chhouk Bandith,” she said.

Fingered as the shooter by none other than Minister of Interior Sar Kheng, he was charged only with causing unintentional injury and eventually saw the charges dropped altogether.

The lower court was later ordered to re-hear the case, but despite the intervention, rights monitors said they weren’t holding their breath.

“We are afraid the court will postpone the case as before,” senior Adhoc investigator Chan Soveth said.

But, he added, the fact that the national election was upcoming gave him slight hope for a resolution.

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