Unions representing more than 15,000 members have called for justice for three women ahead of round two of legal action against their alleged shooter, deposed Bavet town governor Chhouk Bandith.
Bandith, who is accused of shooting the three workers during a protest at a factory in Svay Rieng province in February last year, will face the provincial court once again tomorrow on charges of causing “unintentional violence”.
The Cambodian Labour Confederation and the Cambodian Confederation of Unions issued a statement on Friday urging the court to convict Bandith, send him to prison and make him pay compensation.
“The powerful always go unpunished, while the poor and the weak are always the victims or found guilty,” the statement says, adding that the court should use this opportunity to take a stand against rampant impunity. “We want to see the court . . . be independent.”
CLC president Ath Thorn said it was time for judicial proceedings to be fair and transparent. “The constitution states that all citizens are equal before the law . . . Chhouk Bandith, as the perpetrator, must be found guilty,” he said.
Numerous witnesses claim they saw Bandith shoot into the crowd. The charges brought against him were widely condemned for being too light, and he was never arrested. The case was dropped in December, but the Court of Appeal demanded in March that the provincial court reinstate the charges.
Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodia Defenders Project, said the outcome of the case would depend largely on the willingness of the prosecutor to do his job.
“If he does not want to prosecute, it is very hard,” he said. “If he does not mention evidence, how can the judge convict the accused?
“[Another] problem is the investigators. They have charged [Bandith] with unintentional injury – that’s a small charge. The court can make a suspended sentence.”
Victim Buot Chenda, 22, said yesterday she hoped the court would convict Bandith.
“I will struggle till the end of my life to find justice,” she said.
Additional reporting by Shane Worrell