By  on March 18, 2012

GENEVA — The International Labor Organization on Friday called on Cambodia to apply the rule of law over the shooting of three workers in February outside a plant in the Manhattan special economic zone in Bavet town that supplies Puma. 

Better Factories Cambodia (BFC), program of the ILO, “expresses its concern regarding media reports that no sanctions have been taken against the individual who confessed to shooting three workers outside the Kaoway Sports Ltd shoe factory in February,”  said Jean-Luc Martinage, an ILO spokesman.

The ILO program works with industry stakeholders to improve garment factory conditions and advance workers’ welfare in Cambodia. 

“BFC urges the Royal Government of Cambodia to apply the rule of law in a full and transparent manner and to continue to pursue justice in this matter,” he said. The statement by the global labor body comes after Cambodian media reported Svay Rieng provincial prosecutor Hing Bun Chea said Chhouk Bandith — who was dismissed as Bavet town governor on March 8 — had confessed to the shooting, outside the Kaoway shoe factory. 

“Despite the confession, he walked out of court a free man,” reported the Phnom Peng Post on March 16.

Moreover, on March 15, Yap Swee Seng, executive director of the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, and Souhayr Belhassen, president of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), sent an open letter to Cambodia’s minister of justice, Ang Vong Vathna, and to the  minister of Interior, Sar Kheng, expressing their concerns on behalf of 32 civil society groups. 

“Although the Minister of Interior, Mr. Sar Kheng, said publicly that Mr. Bandit was the sole suspect, the court — under the direction of provincial chief prosecutor Hing Bun Chea — declined to issue an arrest warrant and instead settled with a summons on allegations that the report the police submitted was incomplete. He was briefly questioned by the police last week and later released. Mr. Bandit is expected to appear in court on 16 March 2012,” the letter stated.

“We deeply regret that the exercise of the fundamental right to freedom of assembly has been severely violated by the use of excessive force,” Yap and Belhassen noted.

A week earlier, a group of non-governmental groups, including Ethical Trading Initiative, and international buyers such as Puma, H&M, and Gap Inc. wrote a letter to Cham Prasidh, Cambodia’s minister of commerce, urging the government “to conduct a full and transparent investigation into the recent activities in the Manhattan SEZ and hold those responsible for injuring workers accountable.”

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