Charges Dropped against Chhuk Bundith
Phnom Penh, 19 December 2012 — The Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) expresses its utmost disappointment at the decision of Svay Rieng Provincial Court to drop all charges against former Bavet City Governor Chhuk Bundith, who was accused of firing his gun at three female factory workers at Svay Rieng Special Economic Zone. It took Prosecutor Hing Bunchea almost ten months to decide that, despite Chhuk Bundith’s own confession and confirmation by numerous witnesses that he was the gunman, Chhuk Bundith was not even to be tried for causing “unintentional injuries”—let alone attempted murder.
On 20 February 2012, thousands of workers from three different factories (Kaoway, Sheico and Kingmaker) gathered to demand higher wages. They also demanded that the companies stop dismissing employees unwilling to work on Sundays and public holidays. As company representatives refused to open dialogue, the demonstration turned violent and both protesters and the police threw stones at each other. At 2:00pm, in front of Kaoway factory, a man identified as Chhuk Bundith shot at demonstrators, leaving Keo Ny (18), Bout Chenda (21) and Nuth Sokhorn (23) wounded.
On 6 March, after confessing he was the gunman, Chhuk Bundith was sacked as Bavet City Governor. However, Prosecutor Hing Bunchea allowed him to go free, despite the seriousness of the crime and the risks of interference with the victims. Chhuk Bundith later declared he did not know whether his weapon had discharged, and the Prosecutor reclassified the crime as “causing unintentional injuries.” The blame for the shooting was eventually put on a low-ranking police officer.
In a country where pre-trial detention is widely used—even for minor offenses which do not involve violence—the Svay Rieng judicial authorities’ decision to drop all charges against Chhuk Bundith is yet another example of the level of impunity and disregard for the rule of law which plague Cambodia. Whereas well-connected people are able to get away with serious crimes, poor, vulnerable citizens have no access to effective remedies and do not trust the judiciary.
Furthermore, the Svay Rieng Court’s decision risks seriously damaging Cambodia’s reputation as a garment industry center. As a result, international buyers may consider that reputational risks associated with investment in Cambodia are too high, and progressively phase out production.
Keo Ny, Bout Chenda and Nuth Sokhorn have expressed their wish to appeal the decision and to continue fighting to obtain justice. If Cambodia is serious about the rule of law, Chhuk Bundith must be held to account, regardless of his rank or social standing.
For more information, please contact:
Mr. Ny Chakrya, Head of ADHOC’s Human Rights Program: 011 274 959 (Khmer and English)
Mr. Nicolas Agostini, Technical Assistant: 078 405 024 (English and French)