PHNOM PENH —
The Cambodian Court of Appeals on Monday upheld a guilty verdict for a former city governor accused of firing into a crowd of protesters last year.
Chhouk Bandith, former governor of Bavet town, Svay Rieng province, remains at large, despite being found guilty of the shooting.
Rights groups say his powerful connections have kept him out of prison, despite the injuries to three women during the February 2012 shooting at a demonstration of garment factory workers.
The Appeals Court upheld a decision by the Svay Rieng court, which would put Chhouk Bandith in prison for 18 months and force him to pay some $10,000 in compensation to the three victims.
Chin Lyda, a lawyer for the three women, said they were not satisfied with the court’s action. “The compensation is little, and the accused is a powerful person and has not yet been brought to prison, so they are concerned about their security,” he said.
Kay Visal, lawyer for the defense, said the court’s decision was not just. “I have raised evidence to justify his innocence,” he said.
Rights workers say the court’s decision represented a light sentence, even if Chhouk Bandith is ever arrested.
“Given his criminal action and credible evidence, he should be charged with homicide,” said Am Sam Ath, lead investigator for the rights group Licadho. “Failure to bring him to justice reflects the culture of impunity in Cambodia.”
Outside the court on Monday, demonstrators called for Chhouk Bandith’s arrest, while demanding the release of a housing rights activist, Yorm Bopha, who is being held with little evidence against her.
Protesters said the difference in the two cases highlighted the double standards of Cambodia’s judiciary.