A Poipet City deputy executive director for the opposition CNRP remained in police custody on Friday after allegedly driving his Lexus SUV into an immigration officer at the Poipet International Checkpoint.
Video footage posted online and a witness, however, cast doubt on the official narrative, instead pointing to the immigration officer as having fallen down on his own as the vehicle approached him at low speed.
Police arrested Mang Puthy shortly after the incident in Banteay Meanchey province on Thursday, in which he allegedly knocked over Major Chhean Pisith as the officer was directing traffic on a bridge at the checkpoint.
Poipet City police chief Thin Sindeth said on Friday that Mr. Puthy was still being held at the provincial police headquarters, while Mr. Pisith was receiving treatment at a Thai hospital.
Controversy over the incident flared up on Facebook, with videos being posted disputing the account, commenters spewing outrage over what they characterized as an overdramatization by the officer, and the border police responding with photos of its major in a neck brace and with dark bruises on his thigh.
The border police’s Facebook post also noted that the CNRP official had been a thorn in its side for some time, causing “disorder” at the border by inciting workers to strike and block roads.
An eyewitness backed suggestions that the border officer had feigned the accident.
“I’m just an ordinary person, and I’m just telling the truth what I saw on that day: I saw that the police officer collapsed on the ground by himself, not by being hit by Mr. Puthy’s car,” said Hin Seng Doeun, who was also interviewed by rights group Adhoc.
Adhoc’s provincial coordinator Soum Chankea said many others, including local vendors, all told the same story. Mr. Chankea added that Mr. Puthy had been questioned in the provincial court during the afternoon on Friday and had returned to the provincial police headquarters.
Senior CNRP lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang chimed in on the incident on Friday, writing on Facebook that the border police had used an old trick “to arrest and break the spirit of Mang Puthy.”
“Create a case; crack down on a case; success,” he wrote. “Such a story should have been performed on the stage of a theater, not performed on the road.”