Bangkok, December 13, 2018–A Cambodian news fixer who helped to produce a documentary on sex trafficking for Russian government-funded international news network Russia Today, or RT, was deported yesterday from Thailand to Cambodia on accusations of abetting the production of false news, according to news reports.
Rath Rott Many, a news fixer and labor activist, was detained by Thai police in Bangkok, the capital, on December 7 while attempting to seek asylum at a visa office for the Netherlands, news reports said. He was held in a Thai immigration detention center until his deportation yesterday, the reports said.
Cambodian authorities requested his extradition on the grounds he helped RT film a documentary entitled “My Mother Sold Me,” which was first aired in October and told the stories of impoverished Cambodian families selling their daughters into prostitution, reports said.
“We call on Cambodian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Rath Rott Many,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “The real story behind this ‘false news’ accusation is that Cambodia has morphed from a multi-party democracy with a relatively free media into a one-party dictatorship that brooks no dissent. It’s Prime Minister Hun Sen’s regime that has damaged the national image, not the media.”
Cambodian officials have claimed that Rath Rott Many paid interviewees featured in the film to lie about their personal experiences, news reports said. One mother portrayed in the film, Kav Malay, has since recanted her on-camera account that she sold her daughter’s virginity, news reports said. Others have stood by their personal stories featured in the documentary, reports said.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said before Rath Rott Many’s deportation that he had “committed a crime” by defaming the country and that he “will not be free” after returning to Cambodia, Radio Free Asia reported the official saying.
Interior Minister Sar Kheng confirmed to local reporters that Cambodia had requested Rath Rott Many’s deportation for questioning, but that he had not yet been charged with any crime, the Radio Free Asia report said.
Rath Rott Many’s whereabouts were not known after his deportation from Thailand to Cambodia, the same report said.
“We are highly concerned about the detention of the documentary’s fixer in Cambodia, Rath Rott Many, and are doing everything we can to help resolve the situation, including via diplomatic channels,” RT’s press office told CPJ. “We stand by our story, and are disheartened to hear that because of ‘questioning’ by authorities, statements intended to contradict our reporting and undermine a legitimate focus on the real problem of Cambodia’s sex industry have been extracted from documentary participants.”