Film Screening Canceled After Government Threatens Jail

The scheduled screening on Friday of the award-winning documentary film “Who Killed Chea Vichea?”, which investigates the killing of the country’s most prominent union leader 10 years ago this week, was canceled following government threats, organizers said.

The planned screening of the critically-acclaimed documentary would have been the first public screening of the film, which arrives at the conclusion that senior government officials were involved in the 2004 assassination of Chea Vichea.

“We have decided to cancel tonight’s screening of the documentary,” Ramana Sorn, coordinator for the Cambodian Center for Human Rights’ (CCHR) Freedom of Expression Project, said in an email Friday.

The decision to shelve the screening was announced after Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said that the movie was banned, and that anybody defying such a ban would be jailed or deported.

Ms. Sorn declined to comment on the reason for the cancelation of the screening, and referred questions to CCHR president Ou Virak, who could not be reached for comment.

Rich Garella, the producer of the documentary, said in a statement Friday that he respected CCHR’s decision to cancel the screening amid government pressure.

“The government is making the screening of this film into a test of its respect for freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and the rule of law. So far today it has failed that test, as it consistently fails, because its fundamental nature is to feel threatened by these freedoms,” Mr. Garella wrote.

Mr. Siphan’s threat of deportation and jail for those who screen the film, he said, was akin to terrorism.

“Since there is no legal basis for a ban, these threats are just a form of junior terrorism,” he said. “[The ban is] just made up. An official saying it’s banned does not create a ban.”

Mr. Siphan, however, reiterated on Friday that CPP government officials did have such authority.

“It’s a decision from the authority. The government feels that it is not a proper movie, so they have the right to make the decision, that’s their authority. They have the right to ban things,” he said.

“Democracy is different here, don’t take it for granted.”

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