Opposition official and unionist Mang Puthy yesterday resigned from the Cambodia National Rescue Party, citing increased legal issues in the weeks since his release from Banteay Meanchey Provincial Prison for allegedly striking an immigration official with his car.
The decision followed a meeting with Poipet Town Governor Ngor Meng Chroun, who yesterday told The Post he was unaware of the decision, but had cautioned Puthy that his NGO must be politically neutral under Cambodian law.
Puthy, who is executive director of the Cambodia Informal Economy Reinforced Association (CIERA), was charged with aggravated violence in December for allegedly hitting Poipet immigration officer Chhean Pisith with his SUV.
A video clip of the incident that went viral showed Puthy’s car to be stationary when Pisith collapsed in front of it, resulting in widespread outrage, and mockery of Pisith. The outrage only grew after security footage from a Thai guesthouse showed Pisith walking normally just days after he was photographed wearing a neck brace and being wheeled around on a gurney.
Puthy was freed on bail on January 14, in what some considered a face-saving move by the government to quell the social media fury.
Reached yesterday, Puthy said he was resigning from his party position for want of time and also because of a growing number of legal complaints against him relating to a local land dispute, a past protest at the customs office and the recent “flopper” case.
“I would like to inform the chief [of local CNRP council] that I have to fulfill my tasks at the association. So, I don’t have enough time for party work,” the letter dated January 16 reads.
The unionist added that the move would not be followed by a defection to the Cambodian People’s Party but was simply an attempt to maintain his union’s neutrality.
“I did not submit this letter to be with CPP, not at all. I will be neutral and independent. My stance is to serve the people,” he said, adding that the decision was made after the meeting with Poipet Governor Meng Chroun.
Poipet opposition official Mean Sarith said he had only learned of Puthy’s resignation via Facebook, while CNRP lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang said the unionist was free to leave the party. “When he came to CNRP, we did not force him to come, so he has the right to freely leave the party,” said Chhay Eang.
However, a former associate of Puthy’s, who spoke on condition of anonymity, yesterday described him as an ambitious man who would not leave the CNRP without having planned his next move.
“Wait and see. I think the people in CNRP also know this,” he said. “I also heard that he has tried to negotiate for being chief of administration for Poipet in the past.”