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Victims wait on Bandith ruling

Buot Chinda (left), Keo Near (centre) and Nuth Sakhorn, victims of last year’s shooting, exit Phnom Penh’s Appeal Court.
Buot Chinda (left), Keo Near (centre) and Nuth Sakhorn, victims of last year’s shooting, exit Phnom Penh’s Appeal Court. VIREAK MAI

Victims wait on Bandith ruling

Yet another ruling in the tumultuous trial of former Bavet town governor Chhouk Bandith has been set, with the Appeal Court yesterday announcing a verdict date for next week.

After Bandith was convicted in absentia on the charge of unintentionally causing injury in June for non-fatally shooting three protesters at a demonstration of an estimated 6,000 people in February 2012, he filed an appeal from hiding.

Bandith was once again absent from court yesterday but his lawyer, Kay Visal, maintained his client’s innocence.

“My client is not guilty, and there is no one who saw my client shoot those three victims,” he said, requesting that the charges be dropped.

Bandith, he said, had gone to the protest at the Kaoway sports factory in Svay Rieng province’s Manhattan Economic Zone after receiving an order from Deputy Prime Minister Men Sam An.

Victim Buot Chinda, who was shot through the chest, told the Post in March 2012 that officials acting on behalf of Sam An had offered her money to drop her complaint against Bandith.

Bandith’s 18-month conviction came after he was identified by eyewitnesses and named the sole suspect by no less than Minister of Interior Sar Kheng himself, but not before a series of bizarre legal twists.

After he was charged but never arrested, the Svay Rieng provincial court dropped their case against Bandith in December last year – a decision that sparked public outrage and fresh demands that he be tried for attempted murder.

In March the appeal court ordered he be retried after reinvestigating the case.

The three victims’ lawyer, Sari Butcharya, reiterated calls for the charges against Bandith to be raised to attempted murder.

Her clients, she added, request $50,000 each in compensation.

“My clients have pain in their bodies, their minds, but they still have not yet received justice,” she said.

Keo Near, one of the victims shot at the demonstration last year, hoped yesterday that the appeal court would uphold the conviction and Bandith will finally see the inside of a jail cell.

“We are still living in pain, because justice has still not been served,” Near said.

The appeals court will announce its decision on Monday.

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