The Appeal Court has set a hearing date in a case against former Bavet town Governor Chhouk Bandith, who stands accused of shooting three protesting garment workers last year.
In December, the Svay Rieng Provincial Court dropped charges against the official, only to see the case taken up by the Appeal Court prosecutor general, who called for a reinvestigation. The February 27 hearing will determine whether Bandith should, in fact, be charged for the February 2012 shooting.
“We will hold a public hearing so that all related parties can participate. None will miss it,” said Prosecutor General Ouk Savuth.
Three women were injured when a gunman opened fire during the protest of more than 6,000 workers employed at four factories at the Manhattan Special Economic Zone.
While eyewitnesses fingered Bandith, and he was implicated by none other than Minister of Interior Sar Kheng, it took two months before a widely derided
charge of causing unintentional injury was levied on him.
The case then languished for months, bouncing between the prosecutor and investigating judge, before charges were ultimately dropped. A second man, Bavet town police chief Sar Chanta, was named the sole suspect. In a rare move, higher court officials intervened just days later, appealing the dropped charge and insisting the case be transferred.
Buot Chenda, 21, who was shot in the lung while calling for better working conditions, said yesterday she was relieved to hear a date had been set.
“I’m very happy that the Appeal Court will hear our case, because I have been waiting a long time,” she said. Chenda and two other plaintiffs are seeking $45,000 each for injuries sustained in the shooting.
Rights monitors, who have long criticised the court’s handling of the case, expressed tentative hope that the case at last appeared to be moving forward.
“I believe they will find justice for the victims if the court is independent,” said Moeun Tola, head of the labour program at the Community Legal Education Center.
To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at [email protected]