The wife of a translator and fixer who was jailed for his role in making a documentary about sex trafficking said she has fled Cambodia and is applying for United Nations refugee status after being threatened with arrest.
“I am an asylum seeker now,” said Long Kimheang, 34, via messages from an undisclosed location on Wednesday.
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted her husband, Rath Rott Mony, of incitement to cause discrimination and sentenced him to two years in prison in June.
Rott Mony, who is also president of the Cambodian Construction Workers Trade Union Federation, took part in helping Moscow’s Russia Today station produce the documentary “My Mother Sold Me.”
The documentary, about young Cambodian girls being sold by their mothers into the sex industry, prompted authorities to question some of the mothers, who told their interrogators that they had been paid by Mony to lie. Authorities said the film damaged the country’s reputation.
On numerous occasions, RT and Mony have denied paying people in the documentary or promising to help any of the interviewees.
Kimheang protested several times in front of the Russian Embassy in Phnom Penh, asking for Moscow’s intervention in securing the release of her husband. But she told CamboJA that she was eventually threatened by a person she would not identify that she would also be put in prison.
“I protested every Wednesday of the week because I wanted my voice heard by the Cambodian government to release my husband from jail, but I was told that if I kept doing the protest, I would be jailed like my husband,” Kimheang said.
Kimheang reiterated on Wednesday that her husband was just a translator for RT and that the content of the documentary was not a lie.
“The Cambodian government cares nothing about the truth that was raised in ‘My Mother Sold Me’ and they instead arrested and jailed my husband. My husband was the interpreter and fixer for RT. He didn’t not commit any crime,” Kimheang said.
Kimheang declined to say where she is currently based and to which country she hopes to go once she secures refugee status.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak denied that Kimheang was in danger.
“This is her right,” Sopheak said. But she had not attacked the government enough to be deserving of refugee status, he said.
“It’s normal that in most cases, if they don’t criticize the royal government and competent authorities, no third country will accept them,” Sopheak said. “There have been many cases like this before and we are not surprised.”