The Svay Rieng Provincial Court yesterday summoned Bavet City Governor Chuuk Bundith for questioning over his alleged role in the shooting of three female garment workers at a special economic zone in the province two weeks ago, court officials said.
Human rights groups continued to blast authorities for not yet arresting Mr. Bundith, whom Interior Minister Sar Kheng has named as the only suspect in the shooting, expressing concerns that he could flee the country.
Provincial Prosecutor Hing Bunchea said Mr. Bundith would be questioned on March 16. When asked why no arrest warrant had yet been issued in the case, he said he was simply “following procedure.”
“I summoned him for questioning on March 16,” said Mr. Bunchea, who declined to comment further.
Prach Rim, provincial police chief, said he had no information about Mr. Bundith’s whereabouts and did not know a summons had been issued.
“I haven’t yet received the court-issued summons for questioning [Mr. Bundith] but if I get it, I will comply by the procedure,” Mr. Rim said.
When asked about the continuing lack of arrests in the triple shooting, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said that justice was at work.
“We have to go with the due process. It’s a whole examination,” Mr. Siphan said.
No arrests have been made since three women were wounded on Feb. 20 when a uniformed man, alleged to be Mr. Bundith, opened fire at workers protesters in Bavet City’s Manhattan Special Economic Zone (SEZ). The factory workers manufacture goods for, among others, British shoe brand Clarks and German sportswear brand Puma.
Jill Tucker, chief technical adviser for the International Labor Organization’s Better Factories Cambodia project, said that she has been talking with “a large number of brands” – even those that do not buy from factories within the SEZ – and they are all concerned about the shooting and the fact that the gunman had not yet been arrested.
“I believe the brands sourcing from Cambodia will be disappointed,” said Ms. Tucker, adding that they would be issuing a joint statement of concern later this week.
Larry Kao, managing director of the Manhattan SEZ, said the gunman’s continued freedom also worried him and the factory owners in his SEZ.
“We are worried about the gunman’s motive and we are worried that using a gun [to suppress protesters] is becoming a common tactic that does not make Cambodia attractive [to brands],” said Mr. Kao.
Moeun Tola, head of the Cambodian Legal Education Center’s labor project, compared Mr. Bundith’s case with the case of Seng Kunakar, an employee of the UN’s World Food Program, who was arrested, convicted in court, and jailed less than 48 hours after he was first found distributing material mildly critical of the government in December 2010.
“Now the Ministry of Interior has also completed their report and revealed the name of the suspect but it has taken so long. Do they want to give the shooter a chance to flee?” said Mr. Tola, adding that the suspect should have been arrested the day of the shooting, as there were police officers present at the scene.
Am Sam Ath, technical adviser at rights group Licadho, echoed Mr. Tola’s concern about Mr. Bundith fleeing the country.
“I think the suspect has high-ranking officials behind him to make the police dare not arrest him,” said Mr. Sam Ath. “If the suspect were a common person, the court would have quickly taken action…and issued an arrest warrant.”
Meanwhile, Bun Chenda, 21 – the most seriously injured victim of the triple shooting – left Calmette Hospital yesterday, where she was being treated after a bullet entered her back and pierced her lung. Though she has made a good recovery, doctors said she would not be able to work for some time.
“I am very happy to leave, but I ask police authorities to arrest the suspect as soon as possible,” said Ms. Chenda. “It is not right that the Bavet City governor shot me…I am innocent.”