LOYAL and ambitious readers of an online news website have offered a 7 million riel ($1,750) reward to anyone – civilians or authorities – who can provide information that leads to the arrest of wanted former Bavet town governor Chhouk Bandith.
According to Deum Tnot News, an independent news website that also prints a weekly newspaper, about 20 readers who “love justice” pooled their money in the hope it will speed up Bandith’s arrest.
Hok Ren, the site’s manager, said the group – consisting of students, government officials and lawyers – devised the plan Sunday.
“They’re all people who love justice … and they met us to announce the 7 million riel reward for Chhouk Bandith’s arrest, which they say is in an Acleda Bank account already,” he said.
Bandith was found guilty last month of injuring three garment workers after shooting into a crowd during a protest in Svay Rieng province in February last year. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison. However, he was not in court for the announcement and, despite a warrant being issued for his arrest, remains at large.
“I hope this announcement will encourage authorities or the people to find him or to inform police about his whereabouts,” Ren said.
Rights groups have criticised the authorities for not bringing Bandith to justice, saying it is typical of the impunity that occurs in Cambodia.
Rumours about Bandith’s whereabouts have varied, and police said yesterday they were no closer to capturing him.
Mondulkiri provincial police chief Nhem Vanny said his officials were spending “every day” searching for the disgraced former governor.
“We will arrest him immediately if we know where he is,” he said.
Vanny said police believed Bandith remained in Cambodia and, although grateful a reward had been offered, didn’t need any extra incentive to arrest him.
“We’re not lazy when it comes to investigating this case and arresting Chhouk Bandith,” he said. “You have to remember our proverb: ‘The trap never forgets the animal, but the animal will forget the trap’.”