Filmmaker Says Gov’t Keeping Him in Country

A French filmmaker embroiled in a dispute over a documentary about sex tourism in Cambodia claim­ed Monday that his passport has been seized by immigration police and that he is being held in Cam­bodia against his will.

Immigration police officials are re­fusing to return his passport, Dan­iel Laine claimed by telephone, un­til a judge decides whether he should be held to an agreement he sign­ed in 2003, promising to pay $125,000 to another French man who appeared in the documentary.

Laine, 57, said he signed the agree­ment under duress, and al­leged that the other French man, Pat­rick Mercier, is attempting to ex­tort money from him. “I was stupid…I trusted this man,” Laine said of Mercier, who acted as his translator while Laine was filming “Sexual Tourism: Virgins for Sale.”

Mercier denied Laine’s allegations in a Monday interview, saying Laine ruined his life by falsely de­picting him as frequenting prostitutes, and that he is now seeking his rightful compensation.

Laine would not say where he is stay­ing, but said he was briefly ap­prehended by immigration police two weeks ago on a tip that his passport was fake. French au­thor­ities have since confirmed the authenticity of his passport, he said.

France-based media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders claimed in a press release last week that Cambodian officials encouraged Mercier to demand compensation because it did not like the film­maker’s portrayal of Cambodia. It also accused Cambodian officials of trying to extort money from Laine.

Laine denied that officials have tried to extort money from him.

Deputy National Police Com­missioner Sok Phal confirmed that Laine is being held in Cambodia but then hung up.

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith amended comments made Sunday that Laine had left the country. Khieu Kanharith said Mon­day that he had only heard that Laine had left Cambodia. On Sunday Khieu Kanharith charged that Laine’s documentary was un­professional and accused him of man­ip­ulating poor Cambodian families.

In the documentary, families filmed with a hidden camera are shown apparently offering to sell their daughters for sex.

Mercier, 41, claimed that as well as using him as a translator, Laine secretly filmed him talking to Cam­bod­ian women at night. The documentary falsely implied that they were prostitutes and that Mercier had slept with them, he alleged.

Mercier said he filed a defamation lawsuit at Phnom Penh Munic­ipal Court against Laine in 2003 but later agreed to drop it in return for $125,000 in compensation. Laine pledg­ed to pay when he returned to France, but he never did.

Mercier said he alerted authorities last month that Laine had returned to Cambodia. He said that the swift action against Laine meant that the authorities were simply do­ing their jobs, and that he has not en­couraged them to act on his be­half to claim his compensation.

Mercier provided a municipal court document dated Aug 17 that gives authorities permission to confiscate Laine’s passport and prevent him from leaving the country “until the court reaches a final decision” on the case.

The warrant, signed by Deputy Court Director Ke Sakhorn, states that Laine is eligible for detention because he did not adhere to the agreement he signed with Mercier.

Ke Sakhorn could not be reached for comment Monday, while the court’s Prosecutor Ouk Savouth declined comment Sunday.

National Police Commissioner Hok Lundy said he did not know details of the case, and referred questions to Sok Phal.

Thong Lim, director of the immigration police, said he could not discuss Laine without permission from Hok Lundy.

The French Embassy declined comment.

 

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