Two new witnesses have been summonsed in the case against former Bavet town governor Chhouk Bandith, as the victims’ lawyer tries to prove he intentionally shot three female protesters outside a shoe factory in February.
Nouth Bopinnaroath, Svay Rieng provincial co-ordinator for the rights group Licadho, said the “important” witnesses had been called by investigating judge Pech Chhoeut to reassess the controversial charge of causing unintentional injury handed to the former governor.
“The victims were not happy when the prosecutor charged [Chhouk Bandith] with [causing] unintentional injuries, so the investigating judge asked the lawyers to find more evidence,” he said, adding they had been called for questioning this Thursday.
“If it is unintentional, he should not have shot two or three times.”
The charge against Chhouk Bandith alleges he accidentally shot three workers while trying to fire into the air at a protest of some 6,000 workers outside the Kaoway Sports Ltd factory in Bavet town’s Manhattan Special Economic Zone in February.
An arrest warrant has never been issued for Chhouk Bandith despite the charge, which rights groups have argued should have been attempted murder.
One witness, Un Sam Onn, had been close to one of the victims, while the other, Sok Vuthy, had tried to chase the perpetrator down after the shooting, Nouth Bopinnaroath said.
Sok Vuthy said his family had urged him not to appear for questioning because Chhouk Bandith remains at large and could threaten his safety.
“I am worried my family will not allow me to go. I want to find justice for the same workers,” he said.“I ran after the shooter who was accompanied out of the factory by several police officials.”
Un Sam Onn said she had not received the summons yet and could not comment.
Moeun Tola, head of the labour program at the Cambodian Legal Education Center, said the two witnesses could be more important than the 17 others thus far questioned.
“Actually, there are many witnesses wanting to talk, but the suspect is still out of detention and has freedom, so they cannot speak out. They are afraid for their own safety,” he said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Chhay Channyda at [email protected]