Deported filmmaker James Ricketson told media on his return to Australia that he still loved Cambodia and wished to return, despite just being given a royal pardon from a six-year prison sentence.
“I’ll be going back as soon as I can, but I’ll need to recover obviously. I need to spend some time with myself and some time with my family. But yeah, I’ll be going back,” he said.
The Australian Directors Guild co-founder returned home on Sunday after his release from prison on Friday. He had served four weeks of his sentence for espionage and spent 15 months in prison in pre-trial detention.
His brother Peter told a press conference in Sydney on Monday that he would feel “hesitant” about the 69-year-old returning to Cambodia any time soon, the Australian Guardian reported.
“I would feel in two minds about going him back to Cambodia. One would be that is where he loves to help people. He’s a humanitarian at heart, he’s got an adopted family there and he wants to continue his good work."
“I would be hesitant about him going back immediately. I think the political situation needs to settle down,” he said.
Immigration Department chief Kem Sarin said on Tuesday that based on an April 2016 prakas on deportation, a person convicted of a crime in Cambodia is permanently barred from entering the Kingdom.
“A permanent ban from Cambodia is applied to foreigners in the following cases – for those convicted of a crime, for having been deported from Cambodia twice, and those deemed mentally ill,” Sarin said.
However, legal expert Sok Sam Oeun said that because Ricketson had received a pardon, his conviction was therefore annulled.
But he said the authorities would still have grounds to deny him entry into Cambodia.
“His case is over, but normally the authorities of each country have the right not to let foreigners enter. If they are afraid that a foreigner may cause problems, they won’t let him enter. A country has the right to deny any foreigner a visa,” he said.
On his arrival at Sydney airport on Sunday, Ricketson thanked Prime Minister Hun Sen for recommending his pardon to the king, “for a crime I did not commit”, the Australian Guardian reported.
He said there was “room for improvement” in the way the Australian government had handled his case.
“I’ll leave it at that for the time being – I really need to go home and go to bed now,” he said. “I do have a good story to tell but now, at the airport, is not the right time to tell it.”