Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Threatened with arrest and imprisonment in Phnom Penh

I am in Phnom Penh now, still working on CHANTI'S WORLD - the documentary whose unfortunate history with Screen Australia has led to my being banned! After being arrested twice in the foyer of Screen Australia for doing nothing other than sitting there waiting to get answers to questions, I am again due to be arrested soon if Citipointe church follows thorough with its scarily veiled threats.

“Using the law is the last thing that we want to see happen, because for you to be convicted of a crime and serve a sentence may mean that you will never have the opportunity to re-enter Cambodia again.”

So writes Pastor Mulheran in Citipointe church’s latest attempt to intimidate me into abandoning CHANTI’S WORLD. It is Citipointe church that has ‘stolen’ the two eldest daughters of Chanti – the now 28 year old ‘star’ of my documentary.

“You either cease all aspects of production of the documentary film or remove all content which would identify the mother and the girls who are or were all child victims.”

What Pastor Mulheran suggests in his long letter to me is that it is OK for me to make CHANTI’S WORLD as long as I conceal the identity of Chanti and her daughters Rosa and Chita on the grounds that they are the victims of Human Trafficking. The fact that Rosa and Chita are not victims of Human Trafficking (and nor is Chanti) is no obstacle to Pastor Mulheran.

“Both the girls are deemed by Cambodian law to be victims of Human Trafficking. Irrespective of your opinion or the opinion of others, Cambodian law and the Cambodian Government deem the girls to be victims of Human Trafficking.”

In the world inhabited by Pastor Mulheran (Alice in Wonderland and Orwellian in an equal mix) Rosa and Chita don’t need to be actual victims of Human Trafficking. What is important is that they are ‘deemed’ to be. And why or how can they be so ‘deemed’? Because Citipointe church’s ‘She Rescue Home’ has ostensibly been set up to rescue victims of Human Trafficking. Therefore, given that Rosa and Chita reside at the She Rescue Home they must be (or at least can be ‘deemed’ to be) victims of Human Trafficking. Confused? You should be, dear Reader.

“While we acknowledge that you have regularly contributed to the financial support of the family, is this just another form of trafficking in order to pay the family so that you can continue to film them for your personal interest and the financial gain that you would receive from the profits of your documentary?”

Right. So, my filming this past 18 years, which has probably cost me around $100,000, is not just for financial gain but is a ‘form of trafficking’! Mmmmm!

We sincerely do not want to  have to go down a legal pathway of seeing you forcibly removed…”

Oh dear, as if being arrested twice in the foyer of Screen Australia was not enough, now I have an Australian based Christian church threatening to have me ‘forcibly removed’ and convicted of a crime – the crime being identifying ‘victims of Human Trafficking’ who are not actual victims but are ‘deemed’ to be.  The fact that Rosa and Chita are demonstrably NOT victims of Human Trafficking is, in Pastor Mulheran’s view, merely an opinion. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s famous saying comes to mind:

“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not their own facts.”

This dispute, as with my battle with Screen Australia, has been going on for years. The stakes are much higher here, however, as Chanti’s daughters were stolen from her close to five years ago and we are no closer to getting them back than we were in 2008.

For those who want to get a better sense of what is going on, visit:

If this whets your appetite for more, read my 3rd March letter to Penny Richards, Australia’s Ambassador to Cambodia entitled:

Is Chanti entitled to be provided with copies of contracts Citipointe has entered into with the Cambodian Ministries of Foreign and Social Affairs?

The latest letter is to the head of a coalition of 50 Christian NGOs that has either turned a blind eye to Citipointe’s stealing of Chanti’s children or actually approves of the removal of Buddhist children from their family’s care to be forcibly brought up as Christians. Winning souls for Jesus Christ! It is entitled:

Does the Chab Dai Christian coalition support the exploitation of children in 'poverty' or 'orphanage' tourism?

A brief recap of the Screen Australia aspect of this story is in order: After 14 years of self-funding I found myself with no money and needing some help from Screen Australia to continue filming. I made an application fort a relatively small amount od development funding. As a result some kind of cockup within Screen Australia my 'promo' for CHANTI'S WORLD was not viewed by any of the three people in whose hands the fate of my development application lay - Claire Jager, Ross Mathews and Julia Overton. This triggered correspondence from me (ignored) which eventually led to Fiona Cameron claiming that I had placed on file, in writing, my belief that I came away for the meeting in which Ross and Julia admitted to not having seen my 'promo' with the belief that my development application had been 'green lit'. This was nonsense but it took 2 years to get Fiona Cameron to eventually release the correspondence which, of course, contained no statement from me that implied or inferred that I had come away from the meeting with Ross and Julie believing that my project had been 'green lit'. That the facts were not in synch with Fiona's assertions presented no problem at all for the Screen Australia Board which, at Ruth Harley's behest, banned me (a first in Australian film history) from making applications to Screen Australia on the grounds that I had, in my correspondence, intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia's staff. The fact that there is not one shred of evidence that I have done so (and I have asked countless times for any such correspondence to be made public) matters not at all to the Screen Australia Board – three members of which are practicing filmmakers!

So here I am in Cambodia, in my 18th year of filming CHANTI'S WORLD on a less than shoestring budget. It will be an interesting film. Very interesting. And it will only get more so as the years pass – presuming, of course, that I am not in a Cambodian jail thanks to Citipointe! One day CHANTIS WORLD will be completed and I think all those who have put such a lot of effort into placing any and every obstacle they could in my way (spite and vindictiveness at its worst) will look very foolish indeed. By then, of course, most of the relevant bureaucrats will be gone.

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