In his Bavet town home, Chhouk Bandith lived in style.
Before the former governor of the town shot three women at a garment protest in 2012, before he was convicted for the act and before he went on the lam to avoid prison, he resided in a sprawling two-storey house off of National Road 1 in Svay Rieng province, closed off from small shops and businesses by a metal gate. Not anymore.
On a visit this week to the neighbourhood, Post reporters spoke with neighbours who said that while they had noticed some activity at the house, one of Cambodia’s most famous fugitives had not shown his face for years.
A neighbour who declined to give his name said he believed he had seen Bandith’s nephew going in and coming out of the house, but not the former governor himself.
“I have not seen him for a long time, and I don’t know where he is,” the man said on Tuesday. “No one is so interested in him anymore anyway, because they are busy with their business or work.”
The house sits a short drive down National Road 1 from the Manhattan Special Economic Zone, where recent worker protests mirror the infamous February 2012 demonstration at which Bandith pulled out a pistol and opened fire, hitting and injuring three women in front of the Kaoway Sports factory, which supplies to Puma. The Svay Rieng Provincial Court convicted Bandith of the crime last June.
Since the ruling and the 18-month prison sentence was handed down, Bandith has not been arrested. Critics say authorities have made no serious efforts to find him. Multiple police officials in Svay Rieng did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Cambodian Center for Human Rights chairman Ou Virak said yesterday that considering the lack of urgency on the part of law enforcement to apprehend the former governor, he would not be surprised if Bandith had entered and left the house.
“They haven’t made a real effort to arrest this guy, so who’s going to hunt him down if not the government?”
When Post reporters visited, no police barricades or signs of surveillance were visible at the house, and no cars were in the driveway. No one appeared to be home.