Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Still no date for Bandith trial

Still no date for Bandith trial

Still no date for Bandith trial

121113_02
A female security guard walks past broken windows at a Puma factory in Svay Rieng province following a shooting incident, February 2012. Photograph: Derek Stout/Phnom Penh Post

Nine months after former Bavet town governor Chhouk Bandith allegedly shot three garment workers during a protest, the Svay Rieng provincial prosecutor has wrapped up his investigation, though a court date has not yet been set, a court official said yesterday.

But the slow progress, which has seen almost two months of prosecutorial inquiry following months of examination by the investigating judge, has raised eyebrows among court monitors and rights groups who have accused the court of purposefully stalling to avoid trying a highly sensitive case.

Pich Chhert, provincial court president who is also the investigating judge on the case, said he received the prosecutor’s conclusion last week.

“This case is being processed in the administrative registration. I don’t know when [we] will schedule the date of the hearing, however, I will clarify the conclusion made by the prosecutor later,” he said, declining to elaborate further.

In mid-September, Chhert said his own investigation had wrapped up and he expected the case would go to trial within a week.

Charged with causing “unintentional injury”, witnesses said they saw Bandith shoot into the crowd during a violent protest calling for higher pay by 6,000 garment workers employed at four factories in the Manhattan Special Economic Zone.

It took two months before the relatively light charges were filed, and since then, the case has bounced back and forth between judge and prosecutor, while Bandith has never once been arrested.

The three victims have each asked for US$45,000 in compensation. Rights groups said yesterday there was no question the latest development was simply another stall tactic employed by a court too frightened to try such a politically sensitive case.

“I can say that it is the intention of the court trying to take no measurement in this case at all,” said Am Sam Ath, senior investigating officer at Licadho. 

“What the court has done so far is to conceal its intention only and take this case for granted, because it accused the defendant of only the slightest and most minor of charges,” he said, adding that the court officials likely found themselves in an uncomfortable position.

Moeun Tola, head of the labour program at the Cambodian Legal Education Centre, also called the “unintentional injury” charge evidence of an unwillingness to seek justice.

“We can see a completely clear distinction between the Chhouk Bandith case, in which he was not arrested after causing injuries, and the case of Borei Keila and Boeung Kak community, in which they were jailed for protesting,” he said.

For the victims, meanwhile, nine months without visible movement in the case against their alleged attacker has left them cynical.

Buot Chenda, 21, who was shot in the lung during the February incident, said she long ago gave up hope of a resolution.

“I don’t think I will receive justice, because the powerful people are always the winners in our country as clearly illustrated in this case of mine,” she said.

To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at [email protected]

MOST VIEWED

  • US names new ambassador to Cambodia

    US President Donald Trump on Friday appointed W Patrick Murphy as the new US Ambassador to Cambodia, replacing incumbent William A Heidt. A press release posted on the White House’s website said nominee W Patrick Murphy is currently acting principal deputy assistant secretary at

  • US to ramp up sanctions after ‘flawed’ national polls

    At a press conference on Wednesday, the US State Department announced that it would expand visa sanctions on the Cambodian officials and individuals it deems responsible for “undermining democracy” in Cambodia. At the briefing, spokesperson Heather Nauert reiterated that the department regarded the July 29 elections

  • Kingdom is at a crossroads between East, West after poll

    It was dubbed a success by caretaker prime minister Hun Sen after the electoral victory of his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), which is poised to take all seats in the National Assembly. But the July 29 national election has not been positively looked at by

  • Final poll results confirm first single-party Assembly

    IN an unprecedented situation in Cambodian politics, the official results of the July 29 national elections have declared that the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) will take all 125 seats in the National Assembly on the back of it receiving 76 per cent of the votes. The National