Cambodian authorities indicted the president of a construction workers union Thursday for his role in producing a documentary about sex trafficking.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court charged Rath Rott Mony with incitement to discriminate and ordered him detained while his investigation is pending.
National Police spokesman Lieutenant General Chhay Kim Khoeun told RFA’s Khmer Service he was urging all relevant parties to come forward to shed light on the case.
“All parties must come to testify before the authorities,” he said.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesman Ly Sophana couldn’t be reached for comment.
A woman who appeared in the documentary, Un Srey Pech, told RFA that authorities have not summoned her for testimony since the investigation started.
She said she is afraid to speak to authorities and denied that she received bribes to speak in the documentary.
Pech maintained that the documentary’s account of her is truthful and that she told her story voluntarily without any pressure.
“I am not afraid of the truth,” she said.
“[Rath Rott Mony] didn’t make mistakes. I want the authorities and the court to release him,” she added.
“He didn’t bribe me to tell fake stories. This is a true story,” she said.
Rath Rott Mony’s wife Long Kimheang told RFA the court didn’t give her enough time to find a defense lawyer. She said her husband was questioned without representation.
“The government is persecuting those involved in the documentary,” she said.
She slammed the government for failing to contact Russia Today (RT), the broadcaster that commissioned the documentary, and vowed to continue her fight to have her husband released.
“I will do whatever it takes to defend the truth,” she said.
Cambodian authorities say Mony abetted the production of fake news after he helped the broadcaster film the documentary released in October called “My Mother Sold Me,” which tells the stories of impoverished families in Cambodia who hawked the virginity of their daughters, who were later forced into prostitution.
In a report published on Thursday, RT quoted the film's director, Pavel Burnatov, as saying he believed the women were under duress from Cambodian authorities but that there was no reason to question their accounts of their lives.
"These girls are no actors. To ask them to do some sort of a scene would be useless. It would be insane. They told their stories in such detail – you simply can't make them up like that," Burnatov told RT
On Monday, Khieu Sopheak, a spokesman for Cambodia’s Interior Ministry, said the union leader had “committed a crime” and defamed his country.
“Action should be taken against him,” he said, adding that Rath Rott Mony “will not be free.”
Mony was detained in Bangkok on Dec. 7 while attempting to seek asylum at a visa office for the Netherlands by Thai police acting on a formal request by Cambodia’s government.
He was deported back to Cambodia on Wednesday.
Reported by RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by RFA's Khmer Service. Written in English by Eugene Whong.