Two Cambodian women who claim they were falsely depicted as prostitutes in a 2003 documentary filed defamation lawsuits at Phnom Penh Municipal court Monday, seeking $50,000 each in compensation from a French filmmaker.
Seng Bopha, 24, and Sopheap Kol Navy, 23, allege that filmmaker Daniel Laine falsely described them as prostitutes in commentary that accompanied footage he filmed with a hidden camera in Phnom Penh.
Fellow Frenchman Patrick Mercier, who is seeking $125,000 from Laine over the documentary, called reporters to meet the two women at the Ministry of Information compound Monday afternoon. The three were at the ministry to deliver a letter of complaint to the government about Laine.
Mercier, who acted as a translator for the documentary, claims that Laine also filmed him and falsely depicted him as frequenting prostitutes.
Laine said last week that police had taken his passport and that he was unable leave the country. Laine did not answer repeated phone calls Monday, while the French Embassy declined comment. Vincent Brossel of Reporters Without Borders, which has taken up the filmmaker’s case, wrote in an e-mail Monday that Laine has still not received his passport and remains in Phnom Penh.
“He was called to court two times but no solution yet,” Brossel wrote.
Seng Bopha, who works at Martini Pub Restaurant, said she lost her British husband after he saw Laine’s film. Sopheap Kol Navy, who runs a market stall, claimed her German boyfriend refused to support her after seeing the film.
Information Minister Khieu Kanharith, who has accused Laine of exploiting poor Cambodian families in his documentary, said Laine’s case is now the concern of the court. Municipal Court Director Chiv Kheng said he had not seen the women’s complaints.
Mercier said Seng Bopha had formerly worked as a prostitute, but gave up to get married three years ago. Sopheap Kol Navy has never worked as a prostitute, he said.
Deputy National Police Commissioner Sok Phal said he was too busy to speak to a reporter.