Phnom Penh Municipal Court delivered its verdict on Wednesday, sentencing Rath Rott Mony to two years in prison and ordering him to pay a total of 70 million riel ($17,200) in compensation to two plaintiffs for his involvement in the controversial documentary, My Mother Sold Me.
At the court hearing on Wednesday, Judge Koy Sao said the verdict was based on the prosecutor’s conclusion, all related evidence, and a thorough review of the plaintiffs’ and defendant’s statements.
Besides the two-year prison term, Judge Sao also ordered Rott Mony to pay 35 million riel to each of the two plaintiffs – Tep Sreylin and Keo Malai.
“If the defendant is not satisfied with the verdict, he has the right to file a complaint with the Appeal Court,” the judge said.
Rott Mony’s defence lawyer Lor Chunthy told The Post on Wednesday that the verdict was handed despite numerous suspicious points in the case. He said he would consult with his client on whether to appeal the decision.
“At the hearing, I thought the judge would drop all charges against my client and set him free given numerous suspicions in the case. There was no substantial evidence to prove my client guilty,” he said.
Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director Phil Robertson released a statement on Wednesday denouncing the verdict and calling for Roth Mony’s release.
“The conviction of Mony should be quashed immediately, and he should be released to join his wife and young son,” he said.
Robertson said Roth Mony was merely a local “fixer and translator” for the RT (formerly Russia Today) documentary and therefore should have never been arrested in the first place, let alone convicted. The charges against Roth Mony, he said, were an affront to media freedom.
“The fact of the matter is Cambodia is trying to cover up the very serious poverty that compels urban families to encourage their daughters to engage in sex work to survive economically."
“The push to imprison Mony is an example of Cambodia playing ‘shoot the messenger’ of a person who told the international community about an inconvenient reality the government wants to hide . . . that the sex industry in Cambodia includes girls under 18 and the government officials are failing to adequately act to address it,” the statement read.
The Russian state-owned RT also sent a letter to the Cambodian embassy in Moscow expressing its concerns over the situation.
Ekaterina Yakovleva, the head of RT’s documentary department, said in the letter that Rott Mony had worked with their crew only as a “fixer and interpreter” between January 22 and February 6 last year.
Yakovleva said the film production started in 2017 and had obtained permission from Cambodia’s Ministry of Information.
She stressed that RT’s crew had secured signed notes of consent from each of the main female characters for their appearance in the film.