Uprooting life to support a father in jail

“It’s been a pretty major upheaval – uprooting our lives and shirting over here to Cambodia is a major change,” Jesse said on a blustery Thursday afternoon in Phnom Penh.

Both Jesse and his partner Alex led normal lives, working in Sydney, with Jesse playing drums in a number of bands. They were on a road trip across America when they first heard word of Ricketson’s arrest.

Jesse's father James Ricketson is accused of spying.

Jesse’s father James Ricketson is accused of spying.

Photo: Kate Geraghty

“We had to leave that all behind to come here to help dad as best we can, however we can,” Jesse said. “It’s definitely a full-time job, almost all of the time. It’s an endurance race.”

At the start of last month, Ricketson was moved from an overcrowded cell with more than 120 prisoners in Cambodia’s notorious Prey Sar prison into the jail’s hospital.

He’s been afflicted with a number of skin complaints and unresolved chest pain.

“It’s scary seeing him like that,” Jesse said, adding his father was feeling nervous ahead of Friday’s trial.


Ricketson’s filmmaking often took second place to his humanitarian work, providing housing and financial assistance to a number of Cambodian families who made their living sifting through trash at one of the capital’s rubbish dumps. Jesse said many of those families have been left without support since his father’s incarceration.

In the past 18 months, Cambodia has been in the midst of a political and media crackdown. For Ricketson’s adopted daughter, Roxanne Holmes, her father was simply “caught in the crossfire”.

“Everybody in the family is very distraught,” Holmes said.

“He saved my life and I want to save his. I want to bring him home.”


Holmes has been galvanising support on the home front, namely with a petition that has gained more than 76,000 signatures.

People like Peter Greste and Tony Abbott have put their weight behind the campaign, as did Sam Neill, Rachel Ward and other Australian film figures last week.

While Ricketson’s work in Cambodia has rankled some NGOs and even prompted lawsuits, his family and media experts have dismissed the “spying” allegations from the very beginning.

“My dad is not a spy,” Jesse said. “This is a chance for the Cambodian legal system to show us that justice can be done.”

“We’re hoping for a positive result here, which is the charges being dropped, James’ name being cleared and him being released.”

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