Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday charged a news fixer with incitement to discriminate over his involvement in the production of a sex trafficking documentary dismissed by the government as fake news.
Rath Rott Mony, the news fixer, fled the country last week after the Russia Today documentary “My Mother Sold Me”, which he helped produce, went viral and angered the government, which dismissed it as fake news after sources featured in it retracted their statements on how young Cambodian girls were sold for sex to feed their impoverished families.
Mr Rott Mony was detained by Thai authorities on December 7 while at a visa office as he attempted to seek asylum in the Netherlands and was deported back to Cambodia on Wednesday evening.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesman Ly Sophanna yesterday confirmed that police brought Mr Rott Mony to court, where an investigating judge charged him with incitement to discriminate before placing him in pre-trial detention.“The investigating judge decided to detain him on charges of incitement to discriminate,” Mr Sophanna said.
Under the charge, Mr Mr Rott Mony faces one to three years behind bars if convicted.
The 27-minute RT documentary detailed destitute families in Cambodia selling off their daughters’ virginity for about $400 each, and when their girls’ virginity was lost, they were then forced into prostitution.
In nightclubs and karaoke bars, adolescent girls poured drinks and offered sexual favours to four or five clients a day, the film said, focusing specifically on Kav Malay and her daughter Khieng Sreymich, whom she allegedly sold.
In the days after the video went online, Ms Sreymich posted a video on her Facebook page saying that her story was false and both she and her mother were duped by the television crew.
She and her mother were also questioned by police, whom they told they received $200 for acting in the film.
Ms Sreymich said she was approached by Mr Rott Mony to take part in the video, noting that she was reading lines from a prepared script when she said her mother sold her virginity.
However, other sources in the film have maintained that they told the truth in the documentary and Long Kimheang, the wife of Mr Rott Mony, reiterated yesterday that her husband has done nothing wrong.
“I cannot accept the charges against my husband,” Ms Kimheang said. “The girl’s story is the truth in Cambodian society and officials are trying to hide it.”
“Police and court officials did not conduct a thorough investigation before charging my husband,” she added. “Authorities should call representatives of the Russian government and RT who produced the documentary to verify things.”
RT has maintained that it would “never prompt ‘acting’ or misrepresentations of any kind” in its work and that suggestions the stories were fake news “undermine a legitimate focus on the real problem of Cambodia’s sex industry”.