Cambodian Appeal Court upholds verdict against ex-city governor for shooting workers

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Cambodia's Appeal Court on Monday upheld the decision of a lower court to sentence Bavet city 's ex-governor Chhouk Bandith to 18 months in jail for unintentionally injuring three female garment workers in a protest last year.

Presiding Judge Taing Sunlay said the court decided to uphold Svay Rieng provincial court's verdict in June that convicted Chhouk Bandith of unintentionally injuring three garment workers in the mass protest. The provincial court sentenced him to 18 months in jail and ordered him to compensate a total of 38 million riels (about 9,500 U.S. dollars) to the three victims.

The Appeal Court's decision came after a Chhouk Bandith's lawyer appealed against the provincial court's decision and the victims'lawyers asked the Appeal Court to increase compensation for the victims. "The Hearing Council can neither change charges nor order the defendant to pay more compensation to the victims because the provincial court's verdict is appropriate and acceptable,"Taing Sunlay read the Appeal Court's decision.

Chhouk Bandith, who is now on the run, shot garment workers in a mass protest on Feb. 20 last year at the Manhattan Special Economic Zone (SEZ) situated in southeastern Svay Rieng province' s Bavet city, and he was removed from his governor position by Prime Minister Hun Sen three months later.

The three victims in the shooting are Buot Chenda, 21, who was shot on her chest and exited her back, and the two others are Keo Nea and Nuth Sakhorn, who were slightly injured.

Protests for higher wages and better labor conditions are common in Cambodia's garment and footwear industry, which consists of about 500 factories employing some 510,600 workers.

A monthly minimum wage of a garment worker is 80 U.S. dollars.

The industry is the country's largest income earner, representing more than 80 percent of the country's exports. Last year, the nation earned 4.6 billion U.S. dollars from garment exports, according to the report of the Ministry of Commerce. Endi

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