Witness Tells Court Former Governor Bundith Shot Workers

Former Bavet City governor Chhouk Bundith deliberately opened fire on a crowd of protesting garment workers in Svay Rieng province in February 2012 leaving three workers wounded, a police officer testified Thursday at Svay Rieng Provincial Court.

Mr. Bundith—who again failed to appear in court for the second day of his trial Thursday—has always maintained that he had fired warning shots in the air but did not see where they went.

However, Long Phorn, deputy police chief of Bavet City’s Prasat commune, told the court how he had witnessed the former governor open fire on the workers.

“I really saw Chhouk Bundith use a gun to shoot directly at workers,” Mr. Phorn said.

Mr. Bundith was initially named the main suspect in the shooting, which injured three women working for a factory supplying Ger­man sportswear brand Puma, and was charged with causing unintentional injury. He was then tried by Svay Rieng Provincial Court, which in December 2012 dropped all charges against him citing insufficient evidence.

The Justice Ministry then asked the Court of Appeal to re-investigate the case, and in March the court relieved the charges against Mr. Bundith and—in a much-criticized move—sent it back to the Svay Rieng Provincial Court.

Another police officer, Sar Chantha, was also named as a suspect by the provincial court during the first trial.

Mr. Chantha has repeatedly said he was not present at the site of the shooting, nor was he carrying his gun—a claim backed up by Mr. Phorn’s testimony Thursday.

“I did not see Sar Chantha present at the scene of the protest,” Mr. Phorn said.

Judge Leang Sour said the court had questioned more than 20 witnesses over the past two days.

Joel Preston, a consultant for the Cambodian Legal Education Center—which has provided legal aid to the three workers—said Mr. Phorn was the only witness who definitively testified to seeing Mr. Bundith open fire on the workers. Most of the other witnesses simply put Mr. Bundith at the scene with a gun, he said.

“There is a clear pattern of evidence that has emerged and it all points to Chhouk Bundith,” Mr. Preston said.

Reached by telephone on Thursday, Mr. Bundith declined to comment.

(Additional reporting by Dene-Hern Chen)

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