Facebook in Frenzy Over Surveillance Footage

The last time Facebook users saw border official Chhean Pisith, he was encased in a neck brace and strapped to oxygen tubes en route to Thailand for medical treatment.

But fresh surveillance footage emerged on Friday on Facebook showing a man whom many identified as Mr. Pisith happily strolling through a Thai guesthouse, giving further ammunition to skeptics who say he staged his fall in front of CNRP official Mang Puthy’s barely moving SUV last week.

Soum Chankea, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, had no doubts about who was in the footage.

“The guy in those video clips really is Chhean Pisith,” he said. “After we saw the video clips, we were more disappointed because the court has moved too quickly.”

The Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court last week charged Mr. Puthy, the CNRP’s deputy head of operations in Poipet City and an activist for moto-taxi drivers, with aggravated intentional violence for allegedly hitting Mr. Pisith with his car at the Poipet International Border Checkpoint.

Video footage of the incident shows Mr. Pisith dropping to the ground seemingly untouched by Mr. Puthy’s Lexus SUV, provoking parodies, outrage and calls for an investigation.

The new set of videos released on Friday morning by user “Ton Ton Sen Sen” purport to show Mr. Pisith and a young woman in the hallways and lobby of a Thai guesthouse that was not identified.

The videos feature surveillance footage dated Tuesday, five days after Mr. Pisith’s fall, and are overlaid with commentary remarking on Mr. Pisith’s fluid movements and apparent lack of injury. The man in the footage gracefully walks down stairs and across the hallways.

Authorities have been quiet about what injuries Mr. Pisith supposedly sustained, saying only that he had been taken to a hospital in Thailand for treatment.

The more than 50,000 users who shared the video as of Friday evening expressed outrage and disappointment by posting vomit stickers, memes of a urinating dog and calls for an investigation.

“Ton Sen,” who is listed as a Bangkok resident from Battambang City, later posted a video of himself explaining his rationale for sharing the footage. “I sent this to the court that claimed Mr. Pisith had critical injuries,” he said. “I don’t think [Mr. Puthy] will get justice because this court is just a yes-man court.”

cam photo poipet KHMER AND WEB
Chhean Pisith lies on the road after flopping to the ground in front of an SUV being driven by CNRP official Mang Puthy in Poipet City last week.

“Ton Sen” did not respond to requests for comment.

Keo Vanthan, spokesman for the Interior Ministry’s general department of immigration, said he had not seen the video.

“Since the matter concerns a Facebook post, we cannot conclude whether it’s real or not,” he said on Friday. “And the case is in the hands of the court so let’s wait and see the result of the court’s investigation.”

Mr. Vanthan also denied online media reports that he would seek legal action against Facebook critics who spoke out against the government.

Ou Virak, founder of the Future Forum think tank, said the social media-driven case reflected a new reality for the government used to a monopoly on the media.

“There’s a lot more eyes now,” he said. “There’s a lot more people with smartphones and there’s huge incentive for people to go out and investigate.”

“People don’t have to accept a one-way channel of communication,” he added. “Absolute control is no longer there.”

naren@cambodiadaily.com, paviour@cambodiadaily.com

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