The wife of detained alleged filmmaker Rath Rott Mony and a number of Boeung Kak land activists filed a petition on Tuesday at the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Phnom Penh calling for his release.
Rott Mony has been “temporarily detained” by a Phnom Penh Municipal Court investigating judge over allegations of “incitement to discriminate” for his alleged role in a documentary by RT, formerly Russia Today.
The documentary, My Mother Sold Me, was addressing sex-trafficking in Cambodia and allegedly depicted a young Cambodian woman selling her daughter’s virginity.
On Thursday, the investigating judge of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court detained Rott Mony temporarily under Article 496 of the Criminal Code. He faces one to three years in prison and a fine of two to four million riel ($500-$1,000) if found guilty.
Rott Mony, the president of the Cambodian Construction Workers Trade Union Federation (CCTUF), initially fled to Thailand after calls for his arrest. But upon the request of the Cambodian authorities, he was arrested and repatriated by Thai authorities on Thursday.
The exact role of Rott Mony in the film – produced by RT and shown in October – is a source of controversy.
His wife claims he was a mere intermediary who arranged interviews and translations, while authorities claim he played a significant role in producing the film.
Long Kimheang, Rott Mony’s wife, on Tuesday said she and fellow activists had filed the petition calling for her husband’s release and were seeking the intervention of the Russian embassy and President Putin on the basis that the documentary was produced by a Russian media outlet.
My Mother Sold Me investigated sex trafficking in the Kingdom and depicted a Cambodian woman featured in the film as planning to sell her daughter’s virginity – an accusation the woman denies.
The woman also alleges that Rott Mony lied to her regarding the true nature of the film, saying he initially told her it was a film regarding the Khmer Rouge.
After investigating the complaint made by the woman, a Cambodian technical team concluded that the film was factually inaccurate and seriously affected the honour of Cambodian women, hence ordering Rott Mony’s arrest.
But the petition handed to the Russian embassy claimed that the testimonies of those featured in the film were all accurate and legitimate and that the women featured in the film participated of their own free will.
It also claimed that recent statements to the contrary were made as a result of police pressure.
“I would like to ask the embassy to work with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs so that my husband can be bailed out. I have attached a written letter asking for an interview with the actor [the complainant] and authorities in order to get the evidence,” Kimheang said in the petition.
“My husband was arrested because they said he produced a fake film. I am asking for intervention and an immediate release of my husband because he trusted RT which is a government-run news outlet."
“He trusted that the film produced was a real one. Today if they do not come to take the petition, we will not leave. I met my husband yesterday and he was ok, but he wants his freedom,” she added.
Boeung Kak land activist, Nget Khun, 78, joined the protest saying she did not believe Rott Mony was guilty of his alleged crimes.
“I’ve come to support and encourage him because when we protested for Boeung Kak land, Rott Mony also helped poor people and took photos of our protest,” she said.
The Russian Embassy could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.