Still at Large, Chhouk Bundith Has Case Sent to Appeal Court

The Appeal Court has received the case of former Bavet City governor Chhouk Bundith, who was convicted in June for shooting and injuring three female garment workers but remains at large despite an 18-month sentence, court officials said Monday.

“Chhouk Bundith’s case arrived at the Appeal Court already,” said Appeal Court clerk Sem Sophath, declining to elaborate further on the case.

Although the Svay Rieng Provincial Court announced the ex-governor’s sentence in June and ordered his immediate arrest, he has remained elusive to the authorities.  His lawyers filed an appeal in July to the Appeal Court challenging the provincial court’s verdict.

Sun Bunnarith, Chhouk Bundith’s lawyer, claimed that he did not know the whereabouts of his client but was sure he was still in Cambodia.

“He transferred his right to me to appeal,” Mr. Bunnarith said. “He has not left [the country].”

Chin Lyda, a lawyer for the three female victims in the shooting—who filed an appeal last month seeking more than the $9,500 in compensation that was originally granted to them by the provincial court—continued to call for the fugitive governor’s arrest.

“I appeal to the authorities, please arrest Chhouk Bundith,” Mr. Lyda said.

Rights groups have repeatedly said that the failure to arrest Chhouk Bundith is proof of rampant impunity and a corrupt court system. Moeun Tola, head of the labor program the Community Legal Education Center—which provided legal aid for the three victims—reiterated Monday that the authorities lacked the will to arrest the convicted governor, given his connections to high-ranking CPP officials such as Deputy Prime Minister Men Sam An.

“We can see from the beginning in this case that the authorities from the local level to the top-level authorities do not have any commitment or will to arrest this guy,” he said.

However, National Police spokesman Lieutenant General Kirth Chantharith said police are trying their best to find Chhouk Bundith, and implored local people to inform authorities of his location.

“People have said they saw Chhouk Bundith in Cambodia and so police would like to ask people who know where he is to tell us,” Lt. Gen. Chantharith said. “We do not care about him knowing [high-ranking officials]. We are committed to arrest him.”

© 2013, All rights reserved.