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Cambodian ex-governor sentenced over protest shooting

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    This photo show former governor of Bavet City, Chhuk Bundith (C), pictured near appeals court in Phnom Penh, on February 27, 2013. A Cambodian court sentenced Bundith to 18 months in prison for shooting three female workers at a factory supplying sportswear giant Puma, a judge said on Tuesday.AFP/File

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    Garment factory workers block a street during a protest in front of a factory in Phnom Penh, on June 19, 2013. Cambodia's textile industry employs about 650,000 people and is a key source of foreign income for the impoverished nation. Workers have repeatedly demonstrated against low wages and tough conditions in the multibillion-dollar textile industry, which produces goods for top western brands.AFP/File

A Cambodian court sentenced a former governor to 18 months in prison for shooting three female workers at a factory supplying sportswear giant Puma, a judge said on Tuesday.

The women, employees of Puma supplier Kaoway Sports, were wounded when a gunman opened fire on protesters demanding better working conditions at factories in eastern Svay Rieng province in February 2012.

Chhuk Bundith, who was removed from his post of governor of Bavet City after the shooting, was sentenced to 18 months in jail after the court found him "guilty" of causing unintentional injuries by shooting, according to judge Leang Sour at Svay Rieng provincial court.

The judge also ordered Bundith to pay a total of $9,500 to the three victims in compensation and issued an arrest warrant for him.

Bundith has never been arrested over the shooting and was not present for the ruling.

The victims welcomed the court's ruling and urged that Bundith be arrested as soon as possible.

"I am glad with the court's decision. It provides justice to the three of us," Nuth Sakhorn, 24, who was shot in the back and arm, told AFP.

But rights groups slammed the sentence as overly lenient, saying he should have instead been charged with attempted murder.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said "justice has not yet (been) provided to the victims" because the jail term is "too lenient" and Bundith is still free.

Critics say Cambodia's legal system is in thrall to powerful and wealthy interests, leaving the country without proper rule of law.

Cambodia's textile industry employs about 650,000 people and is a key source of foreign income for the impoverished nation.

Workers have repeatedly demonstrated against low wages and tough conditions in the multibillion-dollar textile industry, which produces goods for top western brands.

Earlier this month, hundreds of garment workers had been fired from a factory making sportswear for US giant Nike after a series of pay protests.

In another outbreak of labour unrest, a union leader said Monday that hundreds of workers including croupiers, drivers and cleaners at Phnom Penh's biggest casino have been fired or suspended after striking for higher wages.

Security guards clashed briefly on Tuesday morning with hundreds of workers protesting outside the NagaWorld hotel and casino, according to an AFP photographer.