A Poipet City opposition leader accused of slamming his SUV into a border officer, who can be seen in video footage of the incident falling to the ground on his own, was released on bail on Saturday following an order by the Appeal Court on Friday.
Mang Puthy, the CNRP’s deputy head in Poipet City, was charged with aggravated intentional violence two weeks ago for allegedly driving his car into Chhean Pisith, deputy chief of the Poipet International Border Checkpoint.
A social media frenzy was aroused after video footage circulated online showing Mr. Piseth flopping to the ground dramatically as Mr. Puthy’s vehicle barely moves. Mr. Pisith was hauled off to the hospital in a neck brace, though another video appeared days later apparently showing him walking normally through a guesthouse lobby in Thailand.
Mr. Puthy’s lawyer, Kim Socheat, said his client was released on three conditions: that he present himself at the court on the first day of every month; that he not change his address without permission; and that he show up whenever he is summoned by the court.
“I think that the Appeal Court’s decision to release him on bail is correct because for this case, the court should not detain him,” Mr. Socheat said.
Mr. Puthy said on Sunday that he was relieved to have been granted bail.
“I felt happy when I left the prison, and I feel I have gotten some glimmer of justice,” he said, adding that he was both innocent and baffled by the event that led to his jailing.
“My car did not hit him because my car did not move. But he walked to stand in front of my car and then he collapsed,” he said. “I don’t understand why he collapsed like that.”
Mr. Puthy, who also heads the labor organization Cambodia Informal Economy Reinforced Association, said he did not think his work at the CNRP had anything to do with potential motivations for a set up.
“This is not a political issue that is involved with any parties, because my activities are to do with my association,” he said.
Mr. Puthy also said he would be seeking an acquittal.
Um Reatrey, deputy governor of Banteay Meanchey province, said that governor Suon Bovor helped coordinate Mr. Puthy’s release on bail, as he wanted the trial to end well for everyone involved.
“We want to implement the win-win policy of the government, because we want both sides to get victory all together,” Mr. Reatrey said.
As for Mr. Pisith, Sim Sam Ath, the police chief at the Poipet checkpoint, said his deputy was currently in Thailand for personal reasons, but would return to his post when he was back in the country.
“He went to Thailand for a personal problem,” Mr. Sam Ath said. “He still works at the border checkpoint and there is no information that he will be removed.”
Mr. Pisith could not be reached.