A Cambodian union leader detained for his involvement in the production of a Russian-backed documentary about sex trafficking in the Southeast Asian country appeared in court Thursday, but the hearing on his case was delayed when the plaintiff failed to appear.
Rath Rott Mony underwent two hours of questioning in the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. His lawyer Sam Titseyha told RFA’s Khmer Service that the trial would resume on June 12, and that the plaintiff’s absence would have no effect on a potential ruling since the defense lawyer was unable to question the plaintiff.
But the lawyer remained hopeful that the court would give justice to his client.
Hours before the trial, Amnesty International released a statement calling for charges against the Khmer-English translator to be dropped.
“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 whose work contribute to exposing this scourge – and the government’s woeful inaction,” said Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southeast Asia.
“The authorities should drop the prosecution of Rath Rott Mony and release him immediately and unconditionally,” he said.
In response to the statement, Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin said Friday that only the court has the right to drop or keep the charges.
He said that Amnesty International has the right to make the appeal but it would have no influence on the court’s decision.
“The defense must participate in the court process showing evidence, [and calling] witnesses to clear charges against him. This is the only solution,” Chin Malin said.
Soeng Senkarona, a spokesman for the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), said he was sad that the trial was being delayed and that Mony should never have been arrested in the first place.
“He was just a documentary fixer, he didn’t have any role in the documentary,” he said.
Mony was hired in 2017 to translate for My Mother Sold Me, a documentary for Russia Today that highlighted the sexual exploitation of Cambodian children.
After the documentary aired in September 2018, the Cambodian government said it contained inaccuracies.
Mony fled to Thailand, but was arrested by Thai police in December at a Netherlands visa office while trying to apply for asylum.
He was repatriated to Cambodia and upon arrival he was charged with “intent to discriminate.” If found guilty Mony could be put in prison for up to a year.
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Eugene Whong.