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Whereabouts of Bavet governor still a mystery

Government and police officials were at a loss yesterday to pinpoint the whereabouts of the Bavet town governor, who has been identified as a suspect in the shooting of three women at a protest two weeks ago.

An arrest warrant had still not been issued for Chhouk Bandith yesterday, who was identified as a suspect in the shootings outside the Kaoway Sports Ltd factory in Svay Rieng province by Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Thursday, officials said.

Svay Rieng chief prosecutor Hing Bun Chea said yesterday he had received the results of a police investigation but still had not finished checking it.

“Chhouk Bandith has not been arrested yet because his case is still in the prosecutor’s hands and is still being checked.”

Director of the penal police department at the Ministry of Interior, Im Bora, denied reports that Chhouk Bandith had been held for questioning. “We only sent a report to the Svay Rieng [provincial] court,” he said.

The shootings in Bavet town’s Manhattan Special Economic Zone put three people in hospital including 21-year-old Buot Chinda, who was shot through the chest and is recovering in Phnom Penh.

Buot Chinda said last week that she had been visited by Bavet town police officials offering her US$500 on behalf of deputy prime minister Men Sam An, who also handed her a document to thumbprint, agreeing not to file a criminal complaint.

Chhouk Bandith also reportedly visited her in hospital last week, urging her not to file a criminal complaint.

Bavet town police chief Keo Kong, Svay Rieng deputy governor Men Vibol and Svay Rieng deputy police chief Hem Sa Ban, all said they had no news about Chhouk Bandith’s whereabouts.

Last week, Chhouk Bandith told the Post he had “a meeting with Vietnam” before declining to comment further.

Mathieu Pellerin, a monitoring consultant with the rights group Licadho, said yesterday that his organisation had a strong belief on Friday that Chhouk Bandith had already been arrested.

“Obviously, that belief has been denied by authorities, so the situation in very murky,” he said.

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