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.