Australian film-maker charged with espionage in Cambodia

Documentary maker James Ricketson, 68, charged with collecting information prejudicial to national security

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.
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

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.

This entry was posted in Cambodia (Kampuchia) and tagged , by Trần Đình Hoành. Bookmark the permalink.

About Trần Đình Hoành

I am an attorney in the Washington DC area, with a Doctor of Law in the US, attended the master program at the National School of Administration of Việt Nam, and graduated from Sài Gòn University Law School. I aso studied philosophy at the School of Letters in Sài Gòn. I have worked as an anti-trust attorney for Federal Trade Commission and a litigator for a fortune-100 telecom company in Washington DC. I have taught law courses for legal professionals in Việt Nam and still counsel VN government agencies on legal matters. I have founded and managed businesses for me and my family, both law and non-law. I have published many articles on national newspapers and radio stations in Việt Nam. In 1989 I was one of the founding members of US-VN Trade Council, working to re-establish US-VN relationship. Since the early 90's, I have established and managed VNFORUM and VNBIZ forum on VN-related matters; these forums are the subject of a PhD thesis by Dr. Caroline Valverde at UC-Berkeley and her book Transnationalizing Viet Nam. I translate poetry and my translation of "A Request at Đồng Lộc Cemetery" is now engraved on a stone memorial at Đồng Lộc National Shrine in VN. I study and teach the Bible and Buddhism. In 2009 I founded and still manage on positive thinking and two other blogs on Buddhism. In 2015 a group of friends and I founded website CVD - Conversations on Vietnam Development ( I study the art of leadership with many friends who are religious, business and government leaders from many countries. In October 2011 Phu Nu Publishing House in Hanoi published my book "Positive Thinking to Change Your Life", in Vietnamese (TƯ DUY TÍCH CỰC Thay Đổi Cuộc Sống). In December 2013 Phu Nu Publishing House published my book "10 Core Values for Success". I practice Jiu Jitsu and Tai Chi for health, and play guitar as a hobby, usually accompanying my wife Trần Lê Túy Phượng, aka singer Linh Phượng.

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