|Australian film-maker James Ricketson (right) filming as opposition leaders Sam Rainsy (centre) and Kem Sokha (left) attend a demonstration in Phnom Penh in 2013. Photograph: Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP/Getty Images|
Australian film-maker charged with espionage in Cambodia
Documentary maker James Ricketson, 68, charged with collecting information prejudicial to national security
The Guardian | 12 June 2017
An Australian film-maker has been sent to a Cambodian prison to await trial over allegations he collected information prejudicial to the country’s national security, a court official says.
James Ricketson, 68, was arrested a week ago and has been the subject of conflicting reports since then – with some linking his detention to flying a drone, and others to living in the south-east Asian nation without proper documentation.
On Friday afternoon he faced court in the capital Phnom Penh and was officially charged with “collecting information prejudicial to national security”.
The offence includes collecting or receiving information with a view to supplying them to a “foreign state or its agents”.
It carries a penalty of five to 10 years imprisonment.
He was sent to Prey Sar prison in the capital for “pretrial detention”, court spokesman Y Rin said.
Just why Ricketson has been charged with this offence, however, remains unclear.
Lou Rabo, the deputy municipal police chief in charge of immigration, said Ricketson was arrested last Saturday at Phnom Penh’s riverside during random checks on foreigners.
“We asked him regarding the legal documents. He didn’t have it and he didn’t respond about where he lives,” Rabo said. “Under questioning, he didn’t reply, meaning he was living in our country illegally, therefore we took him to the office.
“First we found out his crime that he doesn’t have legal documents and after further investigation, he was found with a different crime. It is normal.”
The deputy police chief also rejected reports his initial arrest was connected with flying a drone over supporters of the country’s main opposition political party Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).
The government-affiliated website, Fresh News, reported Ricketson was arrested for allegedly spying and entering “Cambodia to conduct the act of stealing information in order to publish it overseas without permission from authorities”.
According to his blog, Ricketson has been making films since the 1970s, and has recently been in a long-running dispute with Screen Australia.
He has been an outspoken critic of the Cambodian government, describing it as a “dictatorship” on his Facebook page.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was providing consular assistance to an Australian man detained in Cambodia.
It is expected Ricketson will not face court for several months.