Border Closed as Poipet Protesters Detained

Jailed local CNRP leader Mang Puthy’s sister and another protester were briefly detained on Thursday as more than 200 laborers rallied in Poipet City for the labor activist’s release, allegedly stopping traffic from crossing the border for 40 minutes.

Police last week charged Mr. Puthy, CNRP’s deputy head of operations in Poipet City and an organizer for moto-taxi drivers, with “aggravated intentional violence” for supposedly driving his SUV into Chhean Pisith, deputy chief of the Poipet border checkpoint.

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Protesters rally for the release of jailed CNRP official and labor leader Mang Puthy on Thursday at the Poipet International Border Checkpoint. (Adhoc)

The opposition party, rights groups and Facebook users have all criticized authorities for pressing forward on the case in spite of eyewitness accounts and video footage showing Mr. Pisith flopping in front of Mr. Puthy’s barely moving Lexus SUV.

Mr. Puthy’s supporters gathered on Thursday at the scene of the incident, 34-year-old moto-taxi driver Sim Vannak said.

“When more and more protesters came to join the demonstration, authorities sent more than 100 police to confront us,” he said.

As the group locked arms and attempted to block the road, police pushed back and arrested Mr. Puthy’s sister, Din Van, as well as protester Khum Chroeung, Mr. Vannak said.

“Provincial police and authorities arrested two women and told us to cancel the protest to get the two women released,” he said, adding that the workers complied with the authorities’ demands.

Deputy Banteay Meanchey provincial police chief Sith Luos confirmed that two women were briefly held after they attempted to block the border crossing.

“They assembled illegally and attempted to block the border checkpoint. That’s why our officials were forced to carry away two women protesters in order to stop them from holding an illegal protest,” he said. “We set the women free after the protesters agreed to meet us at a local pagoda for negotiation.”

“We told them to understand that they should ask permission for holding a demonstration and to fight the battle in a legal way by finding a lawyer to file a letter with the court requesting bail,” he said, adding that border traffic was halted for 40 minutes.

In a statement released on Thursday, the Interior Ministry repeated the government’s position that Mr. Puthy, who is also known as Din Puthy, had improperly intervened when police seized a driver’s motorbike by inviting the driver to leave the checkpoint in his vehicle.

“After seeing Din Puthy’s behavior, Major Chhean Pisith walked and stood in front of Din Puthy’s car and asked Ung Khean, the motorbike owner, to get out of the car in order to sign a contract,” it said.

“Suddenly, Din Puthy made the engine roar and drove to hit Major Chhean Pisith, causing him to collapse and hit his head on the ground and knock him unconscious.”

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