Chhouk Bundith, the disgraced former city governor who was convicted of shooting and injuring three garment workers at a protest in 2012, was released from Prey Sar prison on Wednesday after serving an 18-month sentence, an official said.
He turned himself in to Phnom Penh police in 2015 after more than two years on the run following an unintentional violence conviction by the Svay Rieng Provincial Court in 2013.
“He was released today because he has already completely served his prison term,” said Be Tealeng, deputy director-general of the Interior Ministry’s general department of prisons.
Mr. Bundith, the former governor of Svay Rieng province’s Bavet City, injured three young women in February 2012 when he fired a pistol into a crowd of workers protesting at a special economic zone in the city.
He had been hiding in Vietnam and made several trips back to Cambodia before surrendering to authorities, a police official said at the time of his arrest. He surrendered less than a week after Prime Minister Hun Sen called for a renewed effort to track him down.
Moeun Tola, executive director of labor NGO Central, said on Wednesday that Mr. Bundith’s crime merited much longer than a year and a half behind bars.
“It is an injustice for the victims. He intentionally shot at workers, so he should be charged with intentional attempted murder and face a more serious penalty,” Mr. Tola said.
Intentional violence with the use of a weapon carries a prison term of up to five years.
“We have seen that the court is not independent because in this case police were not willing to arrest him. He turned himself into police,” Mr. Tola said.
The victims—Nuth Sokhorn, Bun Chenda and Keo Nea—could not be reached for comment on Wednesday, but Ms. Sokorn’s brother, Nuth Yort, said that Mr. Bundith should still be in prison.
“Why was he released so quickly? He should serve longer than this,” Mr. Yort said.
At the time of Mr. Bundith’s surrender, Ms. Nea also said he should have been punished more severely.
“He intended to kill us…and it took about three years to arrest him,” she said.