Three factory workers shot more than three years ago by a town governor who remains at large have come to Phnom Penh to ask Prime Minister Hun Sen to take action in their case, given the recent success of the premier’s call to arrest a property tycoon for beating up a TV star.
On February 20, 2012, during a protest at the Kaoway shoe factory in Svay Rieng province, then Bavet town governor Chhouk Bandith shot into the crowd numerous times with a pistol, injuring the three female workers.
After a lengthy court process that almost saw him escape any significant charge, Bandith was sentenced to spend 18 months in prison and pay $9,500 in compensation in 2013, but he remains on the run.
The women, Bun Chenda, Nuth Sakhorn, and Keo Nea, gathered at the National Assembly yesterday to ask its president, Heng Samrin, to urge the government to bring Bandith to justice.
“The incident happened more than three years ago and the courts have ruled on it, but Chhouk Bandith has never been arrested, while the little compensation he offered was never delivered.
Where is justice for poor and unprivileged people like us?” said Nuth Sakhorn, 25, who was shot in the chest by Bandith.
“Prime Minister [Hun Sen] has never talked about that.”
The women cited Sok Bun’s case as their inspiration.
The property developer was arrested and put in jail after a video of him brutally attacking television presenter Ek Socheata, otherwise known as Miss Sasa, went viral.
Prime Minister Hun Sen personally called for Bun’s arrest on July 16, about a week after the video began to circulate widely.
Moeun Tola, head of the labour program at the Cambodian Legal Education Centre, said Sok Bun and Chhouk Bandith’s cases show a “double standard”, since the three workers are low-profile while Sok Bun’s victim is a well-known TV presenter.
Tola said Bandith had “powerful” officials behind him who ensured he would not be arrested.
“In Cambodia, if there is an order from the prime minister, there will be immediate action. This is what those workers see,” he said.
Sok Khemrin, director of the Penal Police Department at the Ministry of Interior, said that police are still looking for to arrest Chhouk Bandith after Interpol issued a “wanted” note for him.
“We have the arrest warrant in the hands of our department. We are pushing our police to look for him. We really are paying attention to this issue,” he said.
“Even if there are any powerful people behind [him], we don’t care. As long as he’s arrested, he will serve the jail term.”