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Three Years After Shooting, Former Governor Remains Free

Chhouk Bandith, former governor of Bavet city on the Vietnamese border. Photo: Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer

The Cambodian Supreme Court has upheld a guilty verdict for the former governor of Bavet city, on the Vietnam border, who is accused of firing into a crowd of protesting workers in February 2012, but who remains at large.

Victims injured in the shooting say that nearly three years after the incident, they don’t expect Chhouk Bandith will ever be arrested or imprisoned.

“The court has brought no justice for me,” said Nuth Sakorn, a garment factory worker injured in the shooting. “From the lower court to the top court.” She called the courts biased and nepotistic.

Police say they intend to arrest Chhouk Bandith if they ever find him. If caught, he faces a jail term of one year and a half, as well as a fine of up to $5,000. The Supreme Court upheld his conviction, in absentia, in a decision issued last month.

Khieu Sopheak, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, said the case is not closed. He encouraged anyone who knows the whereabouts of Chhouk Bandith to report to the police. “We would welcome this,” he said.

Rights workers and victims say Chhouk Bandith has powerful allies in business and government preventing his arrest. Some reports say he is hiding amid his contacts in Cambodia, but others say he may have fled to Vietnam.

Moeun Tola, program officer for the Cambodian Legal Education Center, said either way, the authorities are ignoring the case.