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Witness duo no-show amid safety concerns

Witness duo no-show amid safety concerns

Two witnesses to the Bavet town factory shooting in February failed to show up at Svay Rieng Provincial Court yesterday despite being summoned by an investigating judge, with one citing fears for his safety.

Sok Vuthy, a 28 year-old worker, told the Post yesterday that he did not obey the court summons from investigating judge Pech Chhoeut because his family had forbidden him for fear it would put his life in danger.

“My father, mother and all my relatives did not allow me to go to the court. I wanted to help my friends [the victims], but I could not go against my family,” he said.

The fact that suspected shooter Chhouk Bandith is still on the loose was Sok Vuthy’s main cause for concern, he said, adding he that feared any testimony he gave might provoke an act of retribution.

On February 20, about 6,000 workers at the Kaoway Sports factory in Svay Rieng’s Bavet town were protesting poor working conditions when the sound of gunshots was heard and three female workers sustained bullet wounds.

Sok Vuthy, who did not see who shot the workers, saw a man with a gun running out of the factory, accompanying by several police officers. He later discovered that the man he saw with the gun was former Bavet town governor Chhouk Bandith.

The second witness to disregard the summons, female factory worker Un Sam Onn, could not be contacted yesterday.

Judge Pech Chhoeut said that “the two witnesses did not ask him for a delay” and simply did not come to the court, so he would discuss with lawyers of the victims how to proceed.

Nouth Bopinnaroath, provincial co-ordinator for human rights group Licadho, said the two were important witnesses in the shooting because of their vicinity to the victims at the time of the shooting.

“One of the witnesses could not be contacted, and another one feared presenting. In fact, they all agreed to be the witnesses. So the court will set a date for new testimony,” he added.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chhay Channyda at [email protected]

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