July 11, 2018 / 4:59 AM / 4 months ago

Australian filmmaker apologises to Cambodia PM ahead of espionage trial

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Jailed Australian filmmaker James Ricketson has apologised for disrespectful comments about Cambodia’s long serving Prime Minister Hun Sen ahead of a trial in which he stands accused of espionage and faces 10 years in jail if convicted.

FILE PHOTO: Australian filmmaker James Ricketson gestures inside a prison truck as he arrives at the Municipal Court of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, June 15, 2018. REUTERS/Samrang Pring

James Ricketson, 69, was arrested last June after he was photographed flying a drone above a political rally organised by the now-dissolved opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).

In a letter to Hun Sen, which was published in full in the Khmer Times newspaper on Wednesday, Ricketson offered his “sincerest apologies” for statements to local media that were “disruptive and ill-informed.”

“These statements were made from a place of foreign naivety and ignorance about the complexities and difficulties of governing Cambodia,” Ricketson said.

“I sincerely regret having made any disrespectful comments and I unreservedly apologise in this regards to yourself and your government,” he said.

Ricketson said that he now realised how much stability Hun Sen’s government brought to Cambodia.

Ricketson’s defence lawyer Peung Yok Hiep confirmed the authenticity of the letter to Reuters and said it would be filed in court on Wednesday ahead of a trial scheduled for July 16.

Ricketson’s arrest came amid a wider crackdown on freedom of expression by the government of Hun Sen, who has ruled for 33 years.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has said that it was providing consular assistance to Ricketson.

The CNRP was dissolved last year at the request of Hun Sen’s government after the arrest of party leader Kem Sokha, who was accused of plotting to take power with American help - charges he says were politically motivated.

Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; editing by Richard Pullin

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