A labor organizer and local opposition party official accused of hitting a border police officer with his car last month was released on bond Friday after a closed hearing before Cambodia’s appellate court.
Din Puthy, president of the Cambodia Informal Economy Reinforced Association (CIERA) and the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) deputy head of operations in Poipet City, was charged with aggravated intentional violence in the Dec. 22 incident. He had been held in the provincial jail since Dec. 24.
While border officer Chhean Pisith was taken away in an ambulance wearing a neck brace, video footage of the incident raises questions about whether the policeman was actually hit by Din Puthy’s SUV.
Witnesses told reporters the vehicle never touched Chhean Pisith, calling his account the incident into question.
Defense attorney Kim Socheat told RFA’s Khmer Service that bail came with restrictions to Din Puthy’s movements.
“He cannot change addresses without the court’s approval, and he has to respond to all summons by investigating judge,” he said. “The ruling is for his immediate release, so he must be freed today as well.”
Kim Socheat told RFA that the officer was not severely injured and had decided against filing a civil suit.
“We know the civil plaintiff has already said that he was not seriously injured, and that he would not file any compensation lawsuit,” he said.
Ath Thun, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers, called the case an unfair one.
“For me as well as the general public, we think this case is really unfair,” he said. “This means that a number of his rights have been withheld.”
Still, Ath Thun and Din Puthy’s wife, Hum Chrien, told RFA they were happy he may have regained some measure of freedom.
“After hearing the appellate court decided to free my husband, I was very delighted so I skipped my meals to wait for his release from prison,” she said.
While Judge Nguon Ratana ordered Din Puthy’s release, he was still being held late Friday, his wife said.
“I waited there from this morning until this evening at 6 p.m., but still my husband has not yet been released,” she said.
“This morning, more than 40 people went to the prison to wait for his release; these people are our relatives, some members [of my husband’s association] and residents here. Tomorrow we will visit the prison again to wait for his release.”
Reported by Maly Leng for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Sovannarith Keo. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.