PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — An Australian filmmaker in Cambodia was charged with espionage Friday after being arrested for flying a camera drone over an opposition party campaign rally.

James Ricketson was charged with collecting information prejudicial to national defense, which is punishable by five to 10 years in prison, Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesman Ly Sophana said.

Ricketson, 68, was arrested on June 3 after filming the last day of campaigning for local elections a day earlier. The ruling party of long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen won a majority of the commune council seats.

It was unclear until Friday whether Ricketson had been arrested for flying a drone without official permission, breaking immigration laws, or violating the national security statute. The article under which he was charged defines his offense as “Receiving or collecting information, processes, objects, documents, computerized data or files, with a view to supplying them to a foreign state or its agents which are liable to prejudice the national defense.”

The government has been critical of media it considers sympathetic to the opposition, and Ricketson was known for filming the activities of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party.


This story has been corrected to fix date of arrest to June 3 instead of May 3.