Phnom Penh -- Svay Rieng provincial court has dropped its case against a former governor of the province’s capital city, who was accused of injuring three women when he opened fire on a mass of demonstrating workers.
The accused, Chhouk Bandith, was removed from his post as Bavet governor after the February shooting, but he was never arrested. The court quietly dropped the case on Dec. 14, a move that will draw more criticism for the country’s judiciary, which is widely viewed as biased and corrupt.
Chhouk Bandith is accused of firing into a crowd of about 1,000 demonstrating workers who had gathered to demand better pay and working conditions. Three women were hit by the bullets. They have refused to take compensation for the crime and have instead pursued their cases in court.
Thun Saray, president of the rights group Adhoc, said Friday the court should have followed through with charges and that the shooting was “a violation of human rights.”
Chhouk Bandith, who was named in the shooting by Ministry of Interior officials, escaped his day in court because of his connections, Thun Saray said. “In a country of good governance, we must not think only about our own feelings of family,” he said.
The court dropped the case two days after the visit of the UN’s special human rights envoy, Surya Subedi, who said he was concerned with Cambodia’s ongoing culture of impunity.
The court said it found no evidence linking Chhouk Bandith to the shooting, but that it was now looking at Sar Chantha, police inspector for the province, in connection with the crime.
“It is unfair for the three of us,” Nuth Sakhan, 23, who was shot in the hand, told VOA Khmer.
A second victim, Nov Sreyny, said she was “terrified” by the decision.
“We are wondering what is behind this decision,” said Ath Thuh, president of the Coalition of Cambodia Apparel Worker Democratic Union. “It intimidated workers,” he said. “It encourages delinquents to commit other crimes, and it will cause insecurity.”
Asked about the case, Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said the government cannot interfere with the work of the courts, but he said the victims can file an appeal.