Australian filmmaker James Ricketson, 69, aims to raise an initial $50,000 for a housing project in Cambodia, despite his conviction on espionage charges and deportation following a royal pardon.
Ricketson said after his release from prison in September that he started helping poor Cambodian scavengers many years ago and will resume again. He and three others started a fund-raising website “Family By Family”, hoping to initially raise $50,000.
He said before his arrest that he helped many families living at dump sites – some of whom had successfully moved away from their scavenging ways.
Ricketson’s daughter Roxanne Holmes – also a team member of the Family By Family project – said they were attempting to raise $50,000 for the families.
“I have been helping poor Cambodian families for 22 years because I love Cambodia and the Cambodian people, especially the poor. They deserve a chance to make a better life for themselves, and especially the children,” Ricketson said on Monday.
Ricketson was sentenced to six years in prison in August on espionage charges and spent 15 months incarcerated before being granted a royal pardon in September.
“My time in jail has not affected my love for Cambodia. I think of it as a lovers’ quarrel. Some people in the government think I hate Cambodia. They are wrong . . . I love Cambodia,” he said.
Among the families supported by Ricketson was that of 26-year-old scavenger Nov Sreypich. Ricketson said he spent $7,000 to enable her parents to return to their home in Prey Veng province.
Sreypich said on Monday that she and other scavenger families at the Choeung Ek dumpsite had known Ricketson for seven years – 17 families had received his support.
“He helped buy property for them and [enabled them] to go back to live in their villages. He gave rice and money, and if the families wanted to return home to the provinces, he helped them,” Sreypich said, citing her parents as an example.
She said she wants to see scavenger children attend school.
Ricketson was deported after receiving the royal pardon. According to Cambodian law, he is permanently banned from returning to the Kingdom.
But he said on Monday that he was optimistic about his return and humanitarian work.
“I have not been banned from visiting Cambodia. If the government wants to stop me from doing humanitarian work in Cambodia, that is its decision. I will continue to help poor Cambodian families even if the government will not allow me to visit,” he said.
To learn more about Ricketson’s Family By Family project, please visit https://www.familybyfamily.org/about-1.
To make a donation and help fund it, kindly visit https://www.gofundme.com/family-by-family.