Unionist and Film Producer to be Deported by Thailand

Thailand is set to deport the president of a construction workers union who helped produce a documentary about sex trafficking back to Cambodia, where his wife said Tuesday he will face political persecution amid a wider crackdown on labor activists.

Rath Rott Mony, the 47-year-old head of the Cambodian Construction Workers Trade Union Federation (CCTUF), 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.

Cambodian authorities said he abetted the production of fake news after he helped Russia Today (RT) film a 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.

One of the mothers portrayed in the film, Kav Malay, later recanted her story and said she had been paid to say she sold the virginity of her daughter Khieng Sreymich in the documentary.

On Tuesday, Rath Rott Mony’s wife Long Kimheang told RFA’s Khmer Service that she had been informed by a United Nations Human Rights officer in Thailand that her husband is being held at an immigration detention center in the country, and that Cambodian authorities will come to take him home in “about one week.”

She said her husband has been denied access to a lawyer while in detention and believes he is being targeted for his activism representing Cambodian construction workers, adding that he is likely to be jailed without a fair investigation of his alleged crime once he is returned home.

Both Long Kimheang and RT have said the documentary shows the truth about sex trafficking in Cambodia, despite Kav Malay changing her story.

Serey Pich, a woman featured in the documentary, told RFA that neither she nor anyone else in the film received money from Rath Rott Mony or RT to tell their stories, and questioned why Kav Malay and her daughter said they had.

“This is the true story of my life—I kept it inside me for too long and I appreciate the opportunity to get it off my chest,” she said.

“Rath Rott Mony is innocent. I am shocked to hear about his arrest in Thailand and I don’t understand why Khieng Sreymich testified against him.”

RT told the Khmer Times on Monday that it was concerned by Rath Rott Mony’s detention and was working to resolve the situation, including via diplomatic channels.

The same day, Khieu Sopheak, a spokesman for Cambodia’s Interior Ministry, said the union leader would be deported as soon as possible, noting that he 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.”

On Tuesday, Brad Adams, New York-based Human Rights Watch’s Asia director, urged Thailand to immediately release Rath Rott Mony and allow him to seek protection from the United Nations refugee agency.

“Thailand should not do Cambodia’s bidding by forcibly returning an outspoken activist who exposed police failures to stop abuses and child sex trafficking,” Adams said in a statement.

Human Rights Watch noted that Thai authorities have regularly collaborated with Cambodia’s government to arrest and forcibly return exiled dissidents who fled to Thailand to escape persecution under Hun Sen.

“It is critically important for Thai authorities not to put Mony into harm’s way in violation of international law,” the group said.


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