A Banteay Meanchey unionist and opposition official was charged with attempted murder on Saturday for allegedly hitting an immigration police official with his car, though eyewitness accounts and video of the incident appeared to show otherwise, setting off an outpouring of social media ridicule.
According to a police report, Mang Puthy, head of Poipet Town’s Cambodia Informal Economy Reinforced Association, had blocked a bridge near the border checkpoint on Thursday evening, when deputy immigration police officer Chhean Pisith asked him to move his car. This is when Puthy allegedly hit Pisith with his car, causing him to faint.
Puthy was then detained by police for two days for questioning, then charged and sent to provincial prison on Saturday, while Pisith is reportedly receiving treatment in a Thai hospital.
However, a video of the incident shows Puthy in a stationary SUV with Pisith standing at the front right corner of the car.
Though the car does not move, Pisith suddenly collapses to the ground, as if struck in the head. The video found its way to Facebook, where multiple users alleged that Pisith had faked the fall.
Sem Makara, deputy head of the immigration police, said Pisith had no reason to fake the accident, again claiming that Puthy hit Pisith, who proceeded to fall and then faint.
“When you see the video, the car does not move or is not moving fast. But the side of the vehicle touched the police official’s feet and he fell down on the bridge,” Makara said.
He brushed off Facebook users, who claimed Pisith had faked the fall, saying the immigration official had nothing to gain from such a stunt. The immigration police, meanwhile, posted multiple photos of Pisith receiving treatment, photographing him in a hospital gurney and wearing a neck brace.
Netizens, however, were unconvinced, with some even shooting their own parody videos of the fall. Others, meanwhile, photoshopped the official into unflattering shots, including one in which another officer supports Pisith from behind on a fake Titanic-inspired movie poster.
Ngem Neang, a motodop and eyewitness, said authorities had confiscated the motorcycle of a fellow driver, and as the head of the local IDEA union, Puthy had come to attempt to negotiate a solution.
“Mang Puthy was in the car, but he did not drive the car fast to make the police fall down and faint as claimed by the immigration police,” he said.
Poipet town Cambodia National Rescue Party official Mean Sarith, yesterday claimed that the incident was a frame-up orchestrated as punishment for Puthy’s activism.
In his capacities as a unionist and opposition official, Puthy had supported motodops and cross-border handcart workers, who have clashed with the local authorities in the past, Sarith said.
“He has had many problems with police in the past. Police wanted to somehow accuse and arrest him,” he said, adding that the video evidence should prove Puthy to be innocent.