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Witnesses Say Former Governor Was ‘At Home’ During Shooting

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 on Thursday wrapped up two days of hearings in a case against a former city governor of Svay Rieng province accused of firing a weapon into a crowd of demonstrators last year, injuring three.

A verdict is expected March 4, following the closed-door hearing Thursday.

Three young women were injured in the shooting, in which former Bavet governor Chhouk Bandith allegedly fired directly at a large demonstration of workers demanding better conditions and pay at a nearby garment factory.

Witnesses told reporters outside the court that Chhouk Bandith stared at his alleged victims in an apparent attempt to intimidate them during Thursday’s hearing.

Witnesses for Chhouk Bandith reportedly told the court he had been “at home” during the shooting incident, a claim other witnesses have refuted.

“I cannot accept what some police witnesses told the court,” Bun Cheada, one of the shooting victims, said after the hearing.

A number of police witnesses declined to be interviewed during breaks in the hearing.

However, one policeman, Long Phon, told reporters that he testified to Chhouk Bandith’s presence at the February 2011 protest and claimed that he saw the former governor fire directly at the demonstrators.

“I saw Chhouk Bandith fire into the workers,” he said again Thursday.

Chhouk Bandith was removed from his post following the incident, but rights groups say he is politically well connected, which may have been the reason the Svay Rieng court dropped the charges against him, ultimately leading to this week’s appeals hearing.