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Round 2 in Bandith case locked for May

After weeks of delay, the Svay Rieng Provincial Court yesterday set a date for the hearing of Chhouk Bandith, the former Bavet governor, who stands accused of shooting three female factory workers in Bavet last year.

A hearing will be held starting on May 21, said Hing Bunchea, provincial prosecutor.

“We have already issued warrants to both sides to follow procedures,” he said. Because of the case’s expected complexity, he added, the case has been scheduled for three days.

On March 4, the Appeal Court re-charged Bandith with causing unintentional injury – a charge that had been quietly dropped three months earlier by the Svay Rieng Provincial Court – and ordered the lower body to re-hear the case.

The powerful former governor stands accused of shooting three women during a violent protest by some 6,000 workers at the Manhattan Special Economic Zone in February last year. Though there were perhaps dozens of witnesses, and he was implicated by none other than Minister of Interior Sar Kheng, Bandith wasn’t charged until months after the shooting. The case then bounced back and forth between prosecutor and investigating judge until it was dropped in December.

Senior Adhoc investigator Am Sam Ath said likely the only reason a date was even being set now was to ensure calm in the lead-up to the July national elections.

“This is just a game only to deceive. They follow the procedures, but Chhouk Bandith [will be found] still not guilty. It makes it difficult for the victims to seek justice,” he said.

A man who answered Bandith’s phone yesterday insisted he was only a driver.

Buot Chenda, one of the three women shot at the factory protest, said she hadn’t been summonsed by the court or heard that a date was set. She was skeptical, she added, that a new hearing would change much.

“I am hopeless of finding justice now. This is the influence of the powerful. The poor are only rubbish in their eyes,” she said.

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