One year ago yesterday, a man waded into a large-scale garment worker protest, pulled out a gun and fired at least three bullets into the crowd of thousands, shooting three women.
The shooting in the Svay Rieng special economic zone stunned the industry, rights groups and the government.
A year on, however, no hearings have been held and, in spite of recent forward motion, it remains very much in doubt whether the main suspect in the shooting — former Bavet city governor Chhouk Bandith — will be tried.
“We haven’t received a summons,” Bandith’s lawyer, Mao Samvutheary, said yesterday, adding that without such a summons she did not know whether Bandith would show.
The Court of Appeal took over the case in December after the Svay Rieng Provincial Court, without explanation, dropped the charge of causing unintentional injury against Bandith following months of bouncing his case back and forth between prosecutor and investigating judge.
Although Bandith’s representative said he had received no summons, lawyers for all three victims said they were asked last week to appear at the Appeal Court on February 27.
Buot Chenda, 21, who was critically wounded when a bullet pierced her lung, said that despite the health difficulties she had faced since, she would make her way to Phnom Penh next week.
“My lawyer told me the Appeal Court will hear this again on that day. I’m very happy, because I have waited a long time already, and I will go on the scheduled day,” she said.
A year later, however, the trauma of what occurred has hardly abated.
With no arrests, and no apparent rush to see justice served, Chenda remains in a state of perpetual fear.
“I am scared when I talk about February 20, because it makes me think about what happened to me that day,” she said.
“What the Svay Rieng Court did was just to protect the perpetrator, not to protect poor people like us.”
For others, fear has given way to rank anger.
“I’m not afraid of [Bandith] any more, because now I rent a room in front of his office,” Nuth Sakhorn, 24, said.
“I see him drive by every day, and when I see his face I grow angry with the Svay Rieng Court.”
Sakhorn has no documents to share with the court that would support allegations against any one suspect, but she is prepared to provide evidence of another sort.
“I can only show the court the marks on my body where I was injured.”
Serei Bot Chariya, one of two defence attorneys representing the three women, said each of her clients was eager to attend next week’s hearing.
“I’m worried about Chenda, because she delivered a baby just a month ago,” she said.
“And Keo Near had to stop work because it was too painful with her injuries.
“But both said they would be coming anyway.”
To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at [email protected]