PHNOM PENH - More than nine months after the former governor of Bavet town allegedly shot three bystanders during a labor strike, the authorities have failed to arrest or bring him to court.
That’s a big difference from the quick action the courts have been able to take when labor leaders or other government critics are brought in, rights advocates say.
Chhouk Bandith, who was sacked as governor of the town, the capital of Svay Rieng province, after the incident, remains at large. He is accused of firing a weapon at a crowd of protesters earlier this year, injuring three women.
Svay Rieng provincial court president Pich Chhert declined to comment Tuesday, saying he was on public holiday.
However, rights groups say the case highlights the disparities of a court system viewed by most Cambodians as biased, corrupt and ineffective.
“This case shows the impunity in Cambodia, and that the courts are under the pressure of politicians,” said Am Sam Ath, lead investigator for the rights group Licahdo.
The courts were fast in indicting Mam Sonando, the owner of Beehive Radio, and sentencing him to 20 years in prison, on secession charges that rights workers say have little evidence, following criticisms of Prime Minister Hun Sen. The courts also quickly sentenced three land rights activists to jail terms after the women were charged with inciting violence in a Phnom Penh land protest.
Chhin Lida, a lawyer for the three women wounded in the Bavet shooting, said the courts have a right to postpone the hearing, but he said they should allow the case to proceed “to find justice for the victims.”