On Monday February 20, 2012, an unidentified male shot three female factory workers while a protest was taking place in front of the Kaoway factory in the Manhattan Special Economic Zone (MSEZ) of Bavet District, Svay Rieng Province, Cambodia. The main purchaser from the Kaoway factory was, and still is, Puma SE, the German based athletic shoe company. The unidentified male was later recognized to be the Bavet town governor, Chhouk Bandith. Even after admitting to the authorities that he was the shooter, Chhouk Bandith’s arrest was first delayed, and then the Court of First Instance promptly dropped the charges.
Shortly after, the victims appealed, which resulted in a decision to send the case back to the Svay Rieng Court of First Instance, stating that there is enough evidence for Bandith to stand trial. Furthermore, public pressure has culminated in the government removing the former governor from power; a move endorsed by human rights advocates, community members throughout Cambodia, and the international community. The new trial date was set for May 12, 2013.
On May 21, 2013 the former Bavet Governor failed to appear to his trial in Svay Rieng province. Following a request by his lawyer, the Svay Rieng court agreed to delay the trial to June 12 in order to "respect the rights of the accused" and insure his presence at the trial. About 60 representatives from unions, NGOs, the united nations and Puma were present during proceedings.
Despite Bandith admitting he fired his gun, and a police witness testifying that he saw Bandith point the gun at the crowd, he remains a free man. The new court date is June 12 at 8 a.m., also in Svay Rieng.
Prior to the appeal, Puma did not publicly acknowledge any financial responsibility for the injured women nor were they involved in the initial negotiations over the contracts between the factory owners and workers. To date, Puma has covered the medical costs of the three injured women, supported and endorsed the pay raise demanded by the workers, and shown a greater interest in the overall conditions within Kaoway Factory. However, the factory workers and victims continue to demand that justice is served, which will not be complete until Chhouk Bandith is convicted of his crime.
Below is the link to an open letter and a video campaign:
We remind you that your consumers and shareholders as well as local and international trade unions, networks and labor support organizations will be watching as Chhouk Bandith stands trial on 12 June 2013. You are obliged to act. The future of the Cambodian garment industry and the lives of those therein, depend upon on it.
We write to you to demand justice for Cambodian garment workers Ms. Bun Chenda, Ms. Keo Nea and Ms. Nuth Sakhorn.
On 20 February 2012, an unidentified male approached a group of around 6,000 workers in Manhattan Special Economic Zone (MSEZ). They were protesting the poverty wages and exploitation that epitomize the Cambodian garment industry. That man shot three young women aged 18 to 23 for requesting a pay increase of 50 cents per day. During the shooting the police did not assist the victims. It was fellow workers who aided them onto motorbikes to be taken to the hospital. Police officers aided the
shooter’s escape by running alongside him to a neighbouring factory.
We watched as one of those young women, Ms. Bun Chenda, 21, struggled for her life
at Calmette Hospital whilst money was thrown at her to buy her silence.
During the search for the shooter Minister of Interior, His Excellency Sar Kheng, came forward to proclaim “we know who the shooter is...We have evidence.” His Excellency identified the only suspect of the shooting as Bavet Governor, Mr. Chhouk Bandith.
Bandith was consequently removed from his position on 5 March 2012. Following this, Svay Rieng Provincial Prosecutor, Mr. Hing Bun Chea admitted Chhouk Bandith had confessed to the triple shooting, yet he was still not
arrested. Eye witnesses such as police officer Mr. Long Phorn have been silenced and ignored.
The evidence against Chhouk Bandith is overwhelming yet he remains a free man, demonstrating that Cambodia is completely devoid of the rule of law. This
case and the powerful interests behind it make a mockery of the Cambodian judiciary and the standards of social responsibility that you claim to uphold.
Your codes and standards demand rule of law, just remuneration and freedom of association yet you stand idly by as the judiciary is manipulated to allow a public official to shoot three demonstrators requesting an increase in wage.
As it stands we cannot consider these codes or standards as anything more than empty words.
We call on your integrity to prove to your supply chain, to your customers and to your shareholders that you value human life, human dignity and justice as purported under CSR initiatives such as the Puma Safe initiative.
We demand that you make it known to the Royal Government of Cambodia that your business is conditional on the independence of the Cambodian judiciary and hence justice for victims of the brutal Bavet shooting.
We bring to you attention your statement dated 9 March 2012 which provides that you “will continue to stand by Cambodia through this period and support constructive dialogue between all parties that respect the rule of law and guarantee workers a fair and safe working environment.”
We bring to your attention that this case and the powerful interests behind it have trampled on the rule of law. Further, the precedent of impunity set in this case ensures that we are not equal before the law and that no one is safe. We bring to your attention the hypocrisy of your statements and your respective codes of conduct.
We remind you that your consumers and shareholders as well as local and international trade unions, networks and labor support organizations will be watching as Chhouk Bandith stands trial on 21 May 2013. You are obliged to act. The future of the Cambodian garment industry and the lives of those therein, depend upon on it.
Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers' Democratic Union (C.CAWDU)
Cambodian Confederation of Trade Unions (CCU)
Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW)
Cambodian Food and Service Workers' Federation (CFSWF)
Independent Democratic of Informal Economy Association (IDEA)
Cambodian Youth Network (CYN)
Coalition of Cambodian Farmers Community (CCFC)
Cambodian Independent of Cervil Servant Association (CICA)
Cambodian Worker Center for Development (CWCD)
Building and Woodworkers’ Trade Union Federation of Cambodia (BWTUC)
Union Federation of ASEAN Workers (UFAW)
Community Legal Education Center (CLEC)
Cambodian League for the Promotion & Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)
Workers’ Information Center (WIC)
Affiliated Network for Social Accountability (ANSA)
Khmer Institute for National Development (KIND)
Strey Khmer Organization
People’s Action for Change (PAC), Cambodia
American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS), Cambodia
Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA)
Asia Monitor Resource Centre (AMRC)
The Global Network
International Federation of Workers' Education Associations (IFWEA)
United Workers Congress, United States
National Guestworker Alliance (NGA), United States
Korean Federation of Public Services and Transportation Workers' Unions (KPTU)
Society for Labour and Development, India
Garment and Allies Workers Union, India
Garment and Textile Workers Union (GATWU), India
SITRASACOSI, El Salvador
FUERSA, El Salvador
STIT, El Salvador
CEAL, El Salvador
FEDOTRAZONAS, Dominican Republic