Filmmaker held without charge

James Ricketson, 68, is questioned by officials on Saturday in Phnom Penh. Photo supplied
James Ricketson, 68, is questioned by officials on Saturday in Phnom Penh. Photo supplied

Filmmaker held without charge

An Australian filmmaker was hauled in for questioning at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday over allegations potentially relating to his filming of an opposition rally, but has yet to be officially charged after more than four days in custody – an apparent violation of Cambodian law.

James Ricketson, 68, was seen flying a drone at a Cambodia National Rescue Party rally last Friday, and was arrested the next day for what local media reports described as “stealing information”.

Under Cambodian law, a person cannot be detained without charge for more than 48 hours if the alleged crime is a misdemeanour, or 72 hours for a felony, according to legal expert Sok Sam Oeun.

“Within 48 hours and 72 hours, they should drop the charges or send them to the court,” he said. The 72-hour window lapsed on Tuesday afternoon.

But Sam Oeun said the fact Ricketson had been sent to court hinted authorities intended to lay charges.

The case comes against the backdrop of an increasingly restrictive atmosphere for the media leading up to elections. In recent weeks and months, a court summons was issued for an RFA journalist on allegations he concealed his identity to gain an interview with politically sensitive prisoners, the National Election Committee released a code of conduct that prohibited publishing “confusing” information leading to a “loss of trust in the election”, and a court complaint was lodged against two Cambodia Daily journalists for seemingly routine reporting.

Other media reports said Ricketson was detained for living illegally in Cambodia, but Uk Hai Sela, head of investigations at the Interior Ministry’s Immigration Department, said he was not aware of the specifics of Ricketson’s case. “This is a Cambodian National Police matter, not an immigration case,” he said.

National Police representatives could not be reached yesterday.

The filmmaker has proved controversial in the past; in 2014, he was handed a two-year suspended prison sentence by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for threatening to broadcast allegations that the Brisbane-based Citipointe Church had sold children.

Ricketson, according to the church, wanted to interview two children in their care after he had interviewed their mother for a 1993 film, and bribed their parents in an attempt to speak with them.

“Ricketson has tried to get two girls who are vulnerable to human trafficking, whose mother was a victim out of our shelter in order to continue making a film for his personal benefit,” part of Citipointe’s complaint read.

Ricketson was questioned until yesterday evening and it was unclear if he had legal representation.

A spokesperson from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the Australian Embassy “is providing consular assistance, in accordance with the Consular Services Charter, to an Australian man detained in Cambodia”, but declined to comment further, due to “privacy obligations”.

Justice Ministry spokespeople did not respond to requests for comment last night. Sources yesterday said Ricketson will be subjected to further questioning, likely today.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hun Sen to ‘step down’ if he loses Sam Rainsy bet over Kem Sokha

    Hun Sen has promised to step down as prime minister while opposition figure Sam Rainsy pledges to turn himself in as forfeits if the long-term political rivals lose a “bet” over the future of former opposition leader Kem Sokha, who is on bail awaiting trial

  • Record set for world’s longest dragon boat

    Cambodia broke the world record for the longest dragon boat – a title previously held by China, Guinness World Records adjudicator Pravin Patel said on Monday. He verified the record on the east bank of the Mekong river, in Prey Veng province’s Peamro district. “With

  • ‘Historic’ Khmer Rouge tribunal Case 002/2 verdict to be delivered

    The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) are to deliver the verdict on Friday, in the trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, in a pronouncement hailed as a “historic event for Cambodia and the world”. The verdict from

  • Analyst: Government appointments ‘a waste of national budget’

    The government has appointed over 200 officials as undersecretaries of state, secretaries of state, assistants and advisers at various institutions since October 1. While senior officials said the appointments were aimed at ensuring higher efficiency at the national level, social analysts said the practice is merely power-sharing