The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday heard the civil case of Rath Rott Mony over the filming of the controversial RT documentary My Mother Sold Me, with five plaintiffs demanding between $5,000 and $10,000 each in damages.

The hearing, comprised of Judge Koy Sao, Deputy Prosecutor Vong Bun Visoth and representatives for the absent plaintiffs, heard that Rott Mony circulated video clips on two Facebook accounts that said Cambodian women had sold their daughters’ virginities.

My Mother Sold Me was produced by Russian television network RT and shown in October last year.

A Cambodian technical team concluded that the film was factually inaccurate and seriously affected the honour of Cambodian women. The criticism related to the film’s depiction of a Cambodian mother who allegedly sold her daughter’s virginity.

Authorities in the Kingdom considered the content to have “seriously damaged the Kingdom’s honour” and requested Thai authorities arrest Rott Mony, who was in Bangkok at the time and deport him to Cambodia.

“The posting of this video clip was to advertise a film that looked down on Cambodian women. This is the reason Rath Rott Mony was arrested and charged,” Judge Koy Sao said.

He said Rott Mony had lied to the Ministry of Information when applying for permission to film by telling them it was a documentary on the lives of Cambodians after the Khmer Rouge, which the ministry approved.

Judge Sao read testimony from the plaintiffs, Khieng Srey Much, Lim Sreyty, Iek Salin, Keo Malai and Un Srey Pich, that said Rott Mony had persuaded them to be in the film by telling them it was a documentary to be shown in Russia about the lives of poor families in Cambodia.

Rott Mony promised one plaintiff that he would help resolve the Boeung Kak land dispute if she agreed to be in the film.

Another was promised money to help set up a hairdressing salon if she took part.

“A Grade 11 school girl said that if she had known what the film was really about, she would not have agreed to be in it. Her family was ashamed. She was now embarrassed when she went to school,” Judge Sao read.

However, Rott Mony told the hearing that he was just an interpreter for the Russian producers of the documentary.

“I did not persuade the girl to be in the film as I was just an interpreter,” he said.

Lor Chunthy and Sam Titseyha, defence lawyers for Rott Mony, told the judge that to ensure a proper trial, the plaintiffs must be present.

“I request the court to summon the plaintiffs to face the court in person,” Chunthy said.

The judge postponed the hearing until June 12.

Rott Mony’s wife Long Kim Heang said that in December last year, she and her husband went to Thailand to check the living conditions of Cambodian workers for a film.

A friend of Rott Mony in New Zealand then invited them over for Christmas. Thai authorities arrested her husband on December 7 when they went to the New Zealand embassy to apply for a visa.