Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Australian filmmaker questioned



Australian filmmaker questioned

Australian James Ricketson (centre) steps out of a police vehicle yesterday to be questioned at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on accusations of spying after he flew a drone over an opposition rally.
Australian James Ricketson (centre) steps out of a police vehicle yesterday to be questioned at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on accusations of spying after he flew a drone over an opposition rally. Pha Lina

Australian filmmaker questioned

An Australian filmmaker jailed for alleged espionage in Cambodia claimed he was arrested without a warrant yesterday, as he was hauled to court for questioning.

James Ricketson, 68, was arrested on June 3, a day after he was spotted flying a drone over an opposition election rally. He was held for almost a week before being charged with gathering information that could jeopardise Cambodia’s national security – a crime that carries a 10-year prison term.

“They arrested me without a warrant, and they do not allow me to meet my lawyer,” Ricketson told reporters at Phnom Penh Municipal Court, before prison guards blocked him from speaking further.

He was then questioned by Investigating Judge Pich Vicheathor for more than two hours, said Ricketson’s lawyer, Ou Helene. It was the first time she had been alongside her client at court, but she had met with him a few times in jail, she said.

The Interior Ministry and National Police have remained tight-lipped about the specific nature of his crime. However, an anonymous source told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Tuesday that Ricketson had been questioned about his links to former opposition leader Sam Rainsy.

Rainsy, who remains in self-imposed exile in France, yesterday denied any knowledge of a supposed documentary Ricketson was making about the former opposition president and the party.

“I am not aware of such a plan, if any. I haven’t seen the guy for years,” Rainsy said in the email. “But he remains a friend.”

A number of photographs depict Ricketson filming Rainsy at different events.

Prime Minister Hun Sen appeared to refer to Ricketson’s case on Monday, when he called for the arrest of “any spies in Cambodia”, whether foreigners or citizens.

“I condemn those who interfere in Cambodian’s internal affairs. Also, any spies in Cambodia have to be arrested for legal action regardless of nationality,” he said.

Ricketson has long been a critic of Hun Sen. In a Facebook post from 2013, he described the premier as the “Darth Vader” of Cambodian politics (with Rainsy being “Luke Skywalker”).

“Hun Sen’s style of government necessitates intimidation, the jailing of critics and opposition party members, tanks, razor wire barricades and a 10,000 strong personal body guard armed with state of the art weaponry,” he wrote, adding that Hun Sen was a “dictator in the Mugabe mold”.

Helene declined to comment on any opposition links and said Ricketson may be brought in for more questioning next week.

MOST VIEWED

  • Locations shut, dozens more Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health has closed 23 locations in connection with the February 20 community transmission of Covid-19 and summoned for testing anyone who had direct contact with affected people and places. The number of discovered related infections has risen to 76, including 39 women. In a press release,

  • Kingdom's Covid cluster cases jump to 194

    The Ministry of Health on February 25 confirmed 65 new cases of Covid-19, with 58 linked to the February 20 community transmission. The latest cluster cases include nine Vietnamese nationals, five Cambodians, one each from Korea, Singapore and Japan, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total number

  • Cambodia's Covid cluster cases rise to 137

    The Ministry of Health on February 24 recorded 40 more cases of Covid-19, with 38 linked to the February 20 community transmission. Of the 40, two are imported cases involving Chinese passengers. The 38 include two Vietnamese nationals and one Cambodian, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total cases

  • Covid cluster raises alarm, health bodies urge vigilance

    The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia have expressed great concern over the February 20 cluster transmission of Covid-19 in the community. Both entities appealed for vigilance and cooperation in curbing further spread of the virus. Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said

  • PM confirms third Covid-19 community transmission

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on February 20 announced the Kingdom's third outbreak of Covid-19 community transmission after 32 people tested positive in just over 10 hours. Addressing the public from his residence after an emergency meeting, Hun Sen said: "I dub it February 20 Community Event, in which 32 cases

  • Cambodia to make auto-rickshaws

    Locally-assembled electric auto-rickshaws could hit the Cambodian market as soon as early in May after the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) gave the greenlight to an investment project at the weekend. According to a CDC press release, it will issue a final registration