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Appeals Court Picks Up Shooting Case Against Former Bavet Governor

Three women who were injured in a shooting at a garment worker strike earlier last year say they have not received justice from the court and are demanding action, file photo.
PHNOM PENH - The Cambodian Court of Appeals held a hearing Wednesday in a case against a former city governor accused of shooting into a group of demonstrators, injuring three, last year.

Chhouk Bandith, the former governor of Bavet town, Svay Rieng Province, is being charged in the shooting.

Rights workers say he was not prosecuted by a lower court because of his powerful government connections. He was removed from his post following the February 2011 shooting incident.

Three women were injured after Chhouk Bandith allegedly fired shots into a demonstration of around 1,000 workers who were demanding better conditions and pay at a factory in the province.

Ouk Sawuth, prosecutor for the Appeals Court, filed for the court to take up the case, after the Svay Rieng court dropped the charges.

Chhouk Bandith appeared at the hearing, alongside the three victims, in a closed-door session in Phnom Penh on Wednesday.

Appeals Court judge Khun Leang Meng told VOA Khmer after the hearing that he questioned the accused and the three witnesses about the shooting.

Chhouk Bandith declined to comment following the hearing. “Wait for the result of the court and you will see,” he told reporters.

Keo Near, 19, who was injured in the Feb. 20, 2011, shooting, told reporters that Chhouk Bandith denied shooting at demonstrators. But she said there were many witnesses who say he did the shooting.

“If he does not receive punishment by the law, some day he will commit the same act again,” she said.

Long Phorn, a policeman and witness, told reporters he had seen Chhouk Bandith fire at workers from where he was standing. “I saw Chhouk Bandith take his gun and open fire on the workers directly, not shooting in the air,” he said.

Meanwhile, outside the court, a group of demonstrators gathered calling for a guilty verdict in the case.

The court will continue the hearing on Thursday.