Home News Cambodia Mam Sonando Case Cambodia's Attempt to Silence Critics, Rights Group

Mam Sonando Case Cambodia's Attempt to Silence Critics, Rights Group

E-mail Print PDF

Download Prominent Cambodian journalist and activist Mam Sonando has been sentenced to 20 years in jail.

He was arrested in July, accused of masterminding a secessionist plot in the Kratie Province.

The village has been the site of a long-running and violent land dispute.

Mam Sonando's Beehive Radio station is one of the few independent media outlets in Cambodia and regularly airs the voices of opposition parties and those critical of the government.

Rights groups say his sentencing is the latest attempt by the government to silence its critics in the lead-up to next year's national elections.

Borin Noun reports.

The court was packed with international and local human rights defenders.

The decision was what they feared.

20 years in jail for inciting villagers to try to form their own state.

An accusation Mam Sonnando denies.

“I’m happy to save Cambodian poor people. I will get justice at the final moment.”

Hundreds of Sonando’s supporters protested outside the court room.

They chant, sing a national song to respect human rights amid a heavy police presence.

Thun Sarin travelled 100 kilometres from his home in the Prey Veng Province to be here.

“Government has to release and give justice to Mam Sonando. We are poor people and we demand him to be freed. The government and court should not detain him. He’s innocent. If Sonando is not released, I will continue fighting till I die.”

Mam Sonando was arrested in July, accused of masterminding a plot to establish an autonomous region in Pro Ma Village in eastern Kratie province.

Farmers there have been evicted from their land to make way for a Russian-owned agribusiness.

In May a teenage girl was shot dead when security forces clashed with protestors.

Mam Sonando also runs Beehive Radio, one of the few independent media outlets in the country.

It regularly gives airtime to the opposition parties and those critical of the government.

And this has made Prime Minister Hun Sen angry.

In a nationally broadcasted speech last June, he called for Sonando’s arrest.

“We’re calling all civil and NOGs to find lawyers to defend this case. We will seek to arrest him. We will bring him to be sentenced.”

Rights groups say the the case is “shocking” and the latest attempt from the government to silence critics ahead of next year’s election.

Amnesty International’s regional spokesperson Rupert Abbott says the verdict is politically motivated.

“It shows as a political thing, so we have to have a political solution. I think there are two factors that are relevant. One is that next year we will have the national election. And that Mam Sonand has been given slots for opposition parties on his radio station. So there’s a motivation to stop the voice.”

Long Pha from Takeo province is a member of the Association of Democrats, a group of activists lead by Sonand.

“On behalf of his Association in Takeo province, I will stand up for him and protest until the chief Mam Sonando gets justice and is released from prison.”

Seeing her husband taken away in police car, Sonando’s wife Dinn Phanara promises to seek for justice.

“The government is using threats and intimidation against my husband with imprisonment. They’re trying to bar him from teaching people about the rule of law and democracy. This is injustice. I will bring his case to the appeals court.”


Last Updated ( Saturday, 06 October 2012 12:41 )  

Add comment

Asia Calling House Rules for Comments:
We reserve the right to fail messages that:
· Are likely to provoke, attack or offend others
· Are racist, homophobic or sexists or otherwise objectionable
· Contain swear words or other language likely to offend
· Break the law or encourage illegal behavior
· Include contact details including number or email address
· Are considered to be advertising or promoting a product or SPAM
· Are considered off-topic

Security code