The president of the Cambodia Informal Economy Reinforced Association, Din Puthy, filed a complaint to the Appeal Court on Thursday, challenging his one-year prison sentence for “hitting” a disgraced former immigration official with his car.
On December 28 last year, Banteay Meanchey provincial court convicted Puthy for “intentional violence” in violation of Article 217 of the Criminal Code. Puthy served 21 days in jail with the rest of the term suspended.
His conviction related to a video showing him “hitting” Poipet immigration officer Chhean Pisith with his car on December 22, 2016. The video gained notoriety for Pisith’s dramatics, in which he collapsed to the floor despite minimal, if any, contact being made by the car.
The police report said the argument occurred after Puthy was asked to move his car by Pisith as he was blocking a bridge near a border checkpoint in Poipet town.
“The verdict is an injustice. I am innocent. Pisith lay in front of my car, which did not hit or touch him whatsoever, but I was wrongly charged and sentenced."
“If the verdict is upheld, it impacts my work because I have to work in the community, and I am also a union leader. I cannot continue in my role with the union with a criminal conviction, according to the union’s regulations,” he said.
Following the incident, Pisith came under fire after footage emerged showing him leaving a guesthouse in Thailand, where he allegedly went for treatment, apparently unhurt with a young woman on his arm. Pisith had previously appeared on television wearing a neck brace.
Then in April 2016, Pisith’s reputation took a further blow as he was arrested by police after shooting a fellow border guard in the shoulder following a dispute.
Puthy’s lawyer, Kuoy Thunna, said he has witnesses and evidence to prove his client’s innocence.
“There is insufficient evidence to sentence him. There is no criminal component because Puthy was not inside his car. In addition, the complainant [Pisith] did not appear in court . . . We have a few witnesses and they all did not see my client hitting him,” he said.
Banteay Meanchey provincial court spokesman Roeun Lina said he had obtained the complaint and is preparing to send it to the Appeal Court.
“The complaint was sent to the court’s clerk to prepare it for forwarding to the Appeal Court. I gave him time to make his case to the Appeal Court and it is now beyond our duty,” he said.
Sum Chankea, the provincial coordinator for right groups Adhoc, said the court had convicted an innocent man.
“It seems like a wrong judgement by the Banteay Meanchey court. Even though the prison term is mostly suspended, it is still a crime that affects his honour,” he said.