About a hundred people yesterday marched to protest the arrest of a Poipet unionist on dubious allegations of running his car into a police officer, with scuffles ensuing as local police officers attempted to snatch and rip apart signs they were holding.
Five days after Mang Puthy, head of the Cambodia Informal Economy Reinforced Association union, was jailed, protesters blocked the road near where the incident occurred to demand his release. “We still cannot believe that my husband crashed into the police officer and seriously injured him like this because all people can see the video,” said Puthy’s wife, Houm Srean, referring to a video widely circulated online since the man’s arrest.
The video shows immigration police official Chhean Pisith standing in front of Puthy’s stationary SUV, then suddenly collapsing. Puthy was charged with causing intentional violence with aggravating circumstances and jailed as criticism of the arrest – and ridicule of Pisith’s seemingly unprompted fall – proliferated online.
As the protesters blocked the road yesterday, police attempted to grab their banners – which read “Puthy is not wrong, please release him” – leading to shoving. The protesters then ended the protest and said they would wait to see what the courts do.
“He is not at fault. He comes here only to help the workers who have problems,” said protester Nhem Neang.
However, Banteay Meanchey deputy prosecutor Sok Keo Bandith on Wednesday released a statement defending authorities’ treatment of Puthy, which was followed yesterday by a similarly worded statement from the Ministry of Interior. It insisted Puthy had indeed hit Pisith, not to mention insulted and disobeyed him. “Therefore, the public can please wait for final result of court’s actions.”