Three eyewitnesses were questioned in court on Tuesday in the case of a Poipet City opposition leader accused of driving his SUV into a border officer, with one witness testifying that the officer was play-acting when he fell to the ground in front of the barely moving car.
Last month, Mang Puthy, the CNRP’s deputy head in Poipet City, was charged with aggravated intentional violence—a crime that carries a prison term of up to five years—for allegedly driving his car into Chhean Pisith, deputy chief of the Poipet International Border Checkpoint.
The case caught the attention of the public when video footage of the incident posted on Facebook appeared to show Mr. Pisith flopping to the ground dramatically with little to no contact with the vehicle. The official was nonetheless put in a neck brace and rushed to Thailand for medical treatment.
Witnesses Un Chivoan, Hin Seng Oeun and Nhet Neang—all members of a labor association headed by Mr. Puthy, the Cambodia Informal Economy Reinforced Association—appeared at the Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court on Tuesday to give their account of the incident.
Mr. Chivoan said he told Investigating Judge Mou Sopheak that Mr. Pisith had faked the injury.
“He asked if I saw Mr. Puthy’s car hit Mr. Chhean Pisith. Mr. Puthy’s car was not moving, but he walked in front of the car and bumped into it then he collapsed to the ground,” the witness said.
“He just collapsed without anything happening.”
Mr. Chivoan said he hoped his answers would lead to the CNRP official being cleared of wrongdoing.
“The judge wanted to be clear—did he collapse through fainting or illness? I told him that he just collapsed himself without [the car] crashing into him,” he said.
“I hope our truthful details can help free Mr. Puthy.”
Mr. Seng Oeun could not be reached and Mr. Neang declined to comment for fear of retribution. Provincial court spokesman Thoun Serey declined to comment because the case was under investigation.
Speaking outside the National Assembly on Tuesday, CNRP spokesman Yem Ponhearith said: “I heard the provincial governor requested to remove [Mr. Pisith] from his position, but I’m waiting to see the situation.”
Provincial governor Soun Bavor could not be reached.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified the Banteay Meanchey provincial governor as Kousoum Saroeuth. He was replaced last year by Soun Bavor.
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