A controversial French filmmaker, whom authorities had prohibited from leaving Cambodia over a sensationalist 2003 documentary he made about sex tourism, has secretly left the country, Agence France-Presse reported.
Daniel Laine slipped across the border into Thailand and arrived in Bangkok Friday evening after several days in hiding, AFP said.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Aug 17 gave immigration police permission to confiscate Laine’s passport and prevent him from leaving the country.
The court said Laine could only leave once it had made a decision on a complaint against him made by fellow Frenchman Patrick Mercier, who claims Laine falsely portrayed him as frequenting prostitutes in the documentary. Mercier is seeking $125,000 in damages from Laine.
It was unclear Sunday how Laine was able to leave. Municipal Court Judge Ke Sakhorn said he was not aware of the departure, and that he believed immigration police still had Laine’s passport. The French Embassy said it had not helped Laine to leave but declined further comment.
Immigration Police Director Thoung Lim and Deputy National Police Commissioner Sok Phal could not be contacted.
Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith, who has accused Laine of exploiting poor Cambodian families in his documentary, said he has discussed the case with Prime Minister Hun Sen.
“I presented the case to the Prime Minister,” Khieu Kanharith said. “He will think about it,” Khieu Kanharith said, adding he could not comment further.
Mercier said he was still optimistic he would get his money. “I didn’t lose, not yet,” Mercier said. He plans to deliver a letter of complaint about the documentary to Hun Sen’s cabinet today, he said, adding that he may also travel to France to file a complaint against Laine.
Laine, who has denied any wrongdoing in the documentary, did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.