By: Jessica Ties
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – On Thursday March 15, Cambodian chief prosecutor Hing Bunchea stated that Chhouk Bandit, a former city governor and the lone suspect in a factory shooting, had not been charged despite admitting to a shooting that resulted in injuries for three women.
The incident involving Chhouk occurred on February 20 when Chhouk allegedly opened fire on a group of approximately 1,000 protestors outside of Kaoway Sports Ltd factory.
The protestors were demanding an increase in their pay and better working conditions when the suspect stepped out of his car, pulled out a hand gun and began to fire on the protestors.
As a result of the shooting, three women between the ages of eighteen and twenty-three suffered gunshot wounds and were taken to the hospital.
Despite the fact that Chhouk Bandit was subsequently fired by Prime Minister Hun Sen, many fear that he is using his money and influence to avoid being charged for the shooting.
Minister of the Interior Sar Kheng has identified Chhouk as the shooter leading NGO’s and rights groups to “…strongly urge the Royal Government of Cambodia to make the suspect’s arrest an utmost priority.”
Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, stated that the shooting is a criminal matter and Chhouk “…can’t use his money to shut people up.” He continued to state that there should be “…an investigation into who is trying to convince the court to drop the case. This kind of impunity sets a bad example for the country.”
Also fueling accusations of legal impropriety are the statements of the Svay Rieng provincial prosecutor.
Last week the prosecutor issued a summons for Chhouk rather than an arrest warrant citing his belief that the police report was unconvincing despite the fact that the former governor had been identified by the Interior Minister.
Initially, and following a meeting with Chhouk, the prosecutor had stated, “I already questioned him this morning. He was accompanied by his lawyer. He confessed to the shooting, but he gave me many reasons for that…It is my right not to arrest [him]. I don’t see it as important.”
Despite the admission, however, Chhouk left court without being arrested. Following this statement the prosecutor then changed his account of the deposition and stated that Chhouk had fired his gun in the air only to change his story again a few days later by stating that Chhouk had a gun but was unaware that it had discharged.
Kaoway Sports Ltd factory sources products for major clothing companies leading a consortium of clothing retailers including Puma, Gap and H&M to demand that the Cambodian government “…conduct a full and transparent investigation into the shooting and [to] hold those responsible for injuring workers accountable.”
For more information, please see:
Khmerization – Prosecutor’s Account of Questioning Varies – 20 March 2012
Khmerization – Factory Shooter Confesses – 17 March 2012
Radio Free Asia – Prosecutors Slammed for No Arrest – 15 March 2012
Voice of America – Bavet Mayor Identified as Suspect in Bloody Shooting – 1 March 2012