Former Bavet town governor Chhouk Bandith walked free from Prey Sar prison yesterday, after serving his 18-month sentence for shooting three unarmed garment workers during a 2012 protest, a sentence decried by rights groups and the victims themselves as too light.
“He was released today … because he has already served his prison term. There was no pardon or sentence reduction,” said Sorn Keo, of the Ministry of Interior’s Prisons Department.
The shooting injured three female workers, with Bandith initially denying responsibility despite numerous witnesses saying he’d fired into the crowd.
He was eventually sentenced in 2013 on the charge of “unintentional violence”, a verdict that drew widespread criticism for its perceived leniency.
The former governor vanished following the verdict, avoiding prison for two years before finally turning himself in after Prime Minister Hun Sen personally demanded his capture.
Moeun Tola, director of labour rights NGO Central, yesterday maintained that the conviction was too light and accused the court of political manipulation.
“He should have been charged with attempted murder and punished more because he took out a gun to shoot at the workers intentionally,” Tola said.
“[Bandith] did not try to answer about the case, but explained to officials about his dedication to the CPP. We know the court officials such as the prosecutor and judge are members of CPP. The court would not hand down a serious conviction to their fellow party member,” he said.