Rights activists and relatives of a news fixer, who was arrested after helping a Russian state-run TV crew to produce a documentary on child sex exploitation, have appealed to the court to drop charges against him on the grounds of absence of relevant parties and lack of evidences.
Rath Rott Mony, 47, a labor activist and a news fixer for the documentary “My Mother Sold Me” by Russia Today news agency, was arrested in December and charged with “incitement to discriminate” for helping RT produce documentary, which the Cambodian government labeled as fake news.
Late last month the Phnom Penh Municipal Court heard Rott Mony’s case, but the process was suspended after his attorney demanded the presence of the five plaintiffs listed in the complaints.
After the hearing last month, a sister of Rott Mony, Rath Chanthul, 27, told VOA Khmer that she wanted the court to give him a fair trial. Rath Chanthul claimed that the absence of the plaintiffs at the court last week suggested an unfair trial.
“I see that in the case of my brother, there are three relevant parties including RT, the plaintiffs, and my brother. But when the court heard the case, it seemed to me that only my brother was mentioned, meaning they focused just on my brother, accusing my brother of writing and creating the story,” she said. “For the plaintiffs, there are only letters.”
She added that the five plaintiffs, who have complained that the film destroyed their reputation and demanded between $5,000 and $10,000 in compensation from her brother, should appear at the court to prove the legitimacy of the case.
“It seems to be unfair for my brother because all the plaintiffs are just on the papers, meaning [I] didn’t see them. [I] want to see them coming to resist the case, which they claimed they are the victims. If they accused my brother of this crime, they should come to defend the case,” she said, adding that the court would not provide full justice to her brother if the court convicted her brother without the presence of all relevant parties.
Ly Sophana, spokesman for the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, didn’t respond to VOA press inquiries sent via mobile phone.
Amnesty International has called on the court to drop what it calls ‘trumped-up charges’ in child sexual exploitation documentary.
“Mony is being punished solely for his role in exposing the horrors of child sexual exploitation in Cambodia. The bogus charges against him are designed to intimidate anyone who’s work contribute to exposing this scourge—and the government’s woeful inaction,” Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southeast Asia, said in a statement.
“The authorities should drop the prosecution of Rath Rott Mony and release him immediately and unconditionally,” he added.
Am Sam Ath, chief of local rights group Licadho’s technical investigation unit, said there is no solid evidence for the court to press charge against Rott Mony, and that the accused was not the film producer.
“Rath Rott Mony is only a fixer for the RT in producing the film content of ‘My Mother Sold Me', whose intention is to expose the truth or show what had happened in order to find the resolutions,” he said.
Soeung Senkaruna, a spokesman for local rights association Adhoc, said the court should bring all the relevant parties of the case to the courtroom.
“A due-process trial means there should be the participation of all sides,” he said.
In 2017, Rott Mony was hired to work on ‘My Mother Sold Me’, a production by news network Russia Today. The documentary exposed sexual exploitation of children in Cambodia. Rott Mony had previously worked on several other documentaries with the network.
The Cambodian government criticized the documentary, calling it inaccurate when it was released in September last year. Fearing prosecution from the government, Rott Mony and his family fled to seek asylum in Thailand where he was arrested and deported by the Thai government late last year. If he is found guilty, he could face up to three years in prison.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly mentioned that if found guilty, Rott Mony could face up to one year in prison.