A CNRP official in Banteay Meanchey province dubiously accused of hitting a border officer with his SUV confirmed his resignation from the opposition party on Sunday, but denied media reports that he was planning to join the ruling CPP.
Mang Puthy, the CNRP’s deputy head of operations in Poipet City, was charged with aggravated intentional violence for allegedly slamming his car into Chhean Pisith, deputy chief of the Poipet International Border Checkpoint, last month. He was released on bail earlier this month.
Mr. Pisith has since been ridiculed on social media after video footage emerged showing him collapsing to the ground in front of the idling SUV seemingly without being struck. He was carried off in a neck brace only to be apparently caught walking unencumbered a few days later on security camera at a guesthouse in Thailand.
On Sunday, Mr. Puthy, who also goes by the name Din, said he decided to leave his CNRP post because his work heading the Cambodia Informal Economy Reinforced Association, a group that advocates for laborers and drivers who regularly cross the border, was demanding too much of his time.
“I resigned as a member of the CNRP on January 16 because I am busy with the work of the association and I did not have enough time to work with the CNRP. I did not go to join the CPP,” he said.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan, however, was cited by the CPP-aligned Fresh News website yesterday morning as saying that Mr. Puthy intended to join the ruling party soon. Mr. Siphan could not be reached to comment on the claim.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said he had not heard of any plans by Mr. Puthy to join the CPP, but added that the party’s arms were open wide.
“If anyone wants to join the CPP, we will welcome them,” he said.
Mr. Puthy’s reported defection follows the surprise decision this month by Chhay Thy, the Ratanakkiri provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc and a longtime government critic, to leave the NGO to run as a CPP candidate in this year’s commune elections.
Ker Samphaos, director of the CNRP’s executive committee in Banteay Meanchey province, said he did not know whether Mr. Puthy was planning to join the ruling party. But he suspected that the decision to leave the opposition party was related to his successful effort to secure his release from prison.
“As for the CNRP, we did not have a problem with him, so if he wants to join us again in the future we will welcome him back,” he said. “We are not angry with him for resigning.”
After Mr. Puthy’s release on bail on January 14, deputy Banteay Meanchey governor Um Reatrey said governor Suon Bovor had helped to arrange his freedom “because we want both sides to get victory all together.”
Yesterday, Mr. Puthy said he was not asked to join the CPP during his pre-release discussions with provincial authorities, but declined to say whether there were any political conditions.
“I cannot talk about this,” he said.