Chhouk Bundith, the disgraced former governor of Svay Rieng province’s Bavet City who was imprisoned earlier this year for shooting three garment workers during a protest in 2012, has been transferred to Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison and is currently receiving medical treatment at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital, officials said on Friday.
Prison officials and a lawyer for Mr. Bundith—who began serving his 18-month sentence for unintentional violence in August—confirmed that he was transferred from the Svay Rieng Provincial Prison earlier this month, but refused to say why.
“He was transferred from the Svay Rieng Provincial Prison to Prey Sar prison about three weeks ago because his lawyer sent a letter requesting to move him,” said Suos Sakho, chief of the Svay Rieng prison, adding that Mr. Bundith had been on medication for heart disease since being locked up.
Nouth Savna, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry’s general department of prisons, said on Thursday that Mr. Bundith was sent to the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital around the same time that he arrived in Phnom Penh.
“He went for treatment at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital about two to three weeks ago because his health is not good; he has liver disease,” Mr. Savna said.
At the hospital on Friday, reporters were prevented from entering the private room where Mr. Bundith was being treated.
“He is being treated here, but I don’t know about the disease or how long he has been receiving treatment here,” a prison guard posted outside the room said, declining to give his name or answer further questions.
The hospital’s deputy director, Chhoeung Yav Yen, said Mr. Bundith had been at the hospital for more than ten days, receiving treatment for a number of ailments.
“He has many diseases including high blood pressure, diabetes, and other diseases, and he has been treated for liver disease in the past,” he said, adding that Mr. Bundith “looks weak and exhausted.”
Te Chamnan, Mr. Bundith’s lawyer, refused to explain why he had requested that his client be moved to Phnom Penh. “We have a reason, but I cannot tell you the reason because it would violate my professional ethics,” he said.
After shooting the three female garment workers during a protest at a special economic zone in Bavet City in February 2012, Mr. Bundith was initially charged with unintentional violence. However, the charges were dropped in December of that year.
Amid a public outcry, the Justice Ministry ordered the Court of Appeal to re-investigate the shooting in early 2013, and the charges were eventually reinstated. In June 2013, the provincial court found Mr. Bundith guilty and sentenced him to 18 months in prison.
He successfully evaded arrest for more than two years before finally turning himself in at the National Police headquarters in Phnom Penh on August 8, days after Prime Minister Hun Sen announced a renewed effort to track him down.
Sary Bothchakrya, a lawyer for the three women shot by Mr. Bundith—Nuth Sokhorn, Bun Chenda and Keo Nea—said yesterday that compensation had finally been paid to them.
“Chhouk Bundith paid 38 million riel [about $9,500] in civil compensation to my three clients in October,” she said.
While she and her clients did not consider the redress sufficient, she added, they would not challenge the ruling.
Naly Pilorge, director of rights group Licadho, which monitors the country’s prisons, said Mr. Bundith’s transfer to Phnom Penh was irregular.
“We do not know why he was moved to CC1 [Prey Sar’s Correctional Center 1], as the crime was committed and his conviction took place in Svay Rieng,” she said.
In a report released in January, Licadho said the group had “received reports of some inmates paying up to $2,000 to be transferred to a different cell or prison.”