Cambodia bans film about trade union leader Chea Vichea

Wed Jun 9, 2010 9:29am EDT
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PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - The Cambodian government has banned a documentary about the unsolved 2004 assassination of influential trade union leader Chea Vichea, according to the film's U.S. director Bradley Cox.

Cox said the government has blocked any screenings of "Who Killed Chea Vichea?" over the past month -- the first banning of a politically charged film since the 1980s in Cambodia which is widely criticized for restrictions on political freedoms.

The movie had its European premiere at the Cannes independent film festival last month and has been put by Amnesty International's on its list of the Top Ten Movies That Matter.

Cox said trade unionists tried to show the movie on May 10 at the spot where Vichea was killed to mark International Labor Day but police raided the location, leading to a declaration by the government, led by Prime Minister Hun Sen, that the movie was an illegal import.

"This is what governments do when they don't want their own people to know the facts and when they can't afford to show weakness, even for an instant," said Rich Garella, one of the producers of the Loud Mouth Film movie, and a former managing editor of The Cambodia Daily.

"I would encourage Cambodian government officials to practice what they preach," said Cox in a statement.

Cambodian Information Minister and the top government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said he was not fully aware of the reasons for the ban but in part it was because the documentary intended to blame his government of Vichea's murder.

"It might have been that the documentary intends to accuse the government of murder," Khieu Kanharith told Reuters.

The 55-minute documentary asks the question who killed Chea Vichea but does not give the answer. It does, however, look at corruption within the impoverished Southeast Asian country.   Continued...

<p>A woman burns incense and prays in front of a portrait of Chea Vichea, former president of the Free Trade Union of the Workers of Cambodia, to mark the fifth anniversary of his death in Phnom Penh January 22, 2009. REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea</p>