An international arrest warrant has finally been issued for Chhouk Bundith, the former governor of Svay Rieng province’s Bavet City who went into hiding before being found guilty of shooting three garment workers three years ago, according to National Police spokesman Kirth Chantharith.
In a video released a day after Mr. Bundith’s three victims protested for the same treatment as Ek Socheata, an entertainer better known as Sasa whose assault earlier this month was followed by the swift arrest of her assailant, Lieutenant General Chantharith denied that authorities had been negligent in locating Mr. Bundith.
“In fact, the Interior Ministry and commissioner of the National Police have not been careless in their investigations looking for Chhouk Bundith in order to punish him in compliance with the law,” Lt. Gen. Chantharith says in the video, which was posted to the National Police’s website on Tuesday night.
Lt. Gen. Chantharith said authorities had been searching for Mr. Bundith since charges were levied against him for the second time in June 2013.
“From that time, the authorities have been searching,” he says in the video. “We had information that he stayed in this or that place, but when we went there, he had gone. It was our bad luck that we could not arrest him, but we continued to work on this.”
“A Red Notice was only issued in March 2015,” he says, referring to an Interpol notification for a fugitive being sought “with a view to extradition.”
Mr. Bundith, who shot the three workers during a protest at a special economic zone in February 2012, was initially charged with “unintentional violence” in April that year. In December 2012, the charge was dropped without explanation.
With public interest in the case growing, the Appeal Court, on the orders of Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana, launched a re-investigation, eventually leading to Mr. Bundith being sentenced to 18 months in prison in June 2013.
However, the former governor had gone into hiding before the decision was handed down and was never apprehended by police. Officials at the time speculated that he might have fled the country through an “unofficial” border crossing.
Contacted Wednesday, Lt. Gen. Chantharith denied that the protest by Mr. Bundith’s victims—Nuth Sokhorn, Bun Chenda and Keo Nea —at the National Assembly on Monday, and concurrent outcry on social media, sparked the Red Notice, reiterating that it was released in March.
“It was not the workers filing a complaint to make us work hard,” Lt. Gen. Chantharith said.
“Yesterday [in the video], we wanted to mention that we have been working hard in the past and up until now. We already issued the Red Notice,” he said, going on to defend the tardiness of the notice’s release.
“According to tips, [Mr. Bundith] had been staying around the country, and we tried to arrest him like any other criminal. We could not issue the Red Notice as [police] wanted because it is hard to release a Red Notice unless we have clear information,” he said.
“I hope that sooner or later he is arrested.”
Lim Sokha Raksmey, acting director of Cambodia’s Interpol office, said the National Police spokesman was correct in saying that the Red Notice was issued in March.
“We informed the international Interpol in March, and we have had an international arrest warrant—the Red Notice—since March,” Mr. Sokha Raksmey said.
“We have been looking for him both locally and internationally since the court issued charges,” he said, before rejecting criticism of police efforts in the case.
“Speakers speak, while doers do work, and work hard.”