Friday, September 14, 2012


On Sunday morning, July 15, 2012, independent Beehive Radio station owner and director Mam Sonando was arrested at his radio station. Mr. Sonando holds both Cambodian and French citizenship, and is 70 years old. He is also the founder and president of the Association of Democrats, a registered NGO that aims to promote human rights and democracy in Cambodia particularly through securing Cambodian ID cards to facilitate increased ease in voting. After spending a night in police custody, Mr. Sonando was brought before Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Sem Sakola for questioning. By about noon on July 16, Sonando was charged under six articles of Cambodia’s Penal Code. He stands accused of crimes ranging from leading an insurrectionary movement and incitement to take up arms against the state, to obstruction of public officials. If convicted on all counts, he faces seven to thirty years in prison.

The government claims that the charges against Mr. Sonando are related to an alleged secession attempt by villagers in Kratie province. Those accused of attempted secession have been involved in an ongoing and escalating land dispute with a well-connected private company in Chhlong district’s Kampong Domrey commune. On May 16, 2012, while Sonando was out of the country, hundreds of soldiers, military police and local police stormed the disputed land with the aid of a helicopter. Hundreds of families were kicked off the land. During the operation, a 14-year-old girl was killed. Authorities blocked access to the site by journalists, NGOs and the United Nations on the day of the eviction and, with the exception of a chaperoned visit by some UN officials, the lock down continued for several days afterwards.

Many have criticized the “secession movement” justification for the involvement of soldiers on May 16th. None of the armed forces were injured, and there has still been no evidence presented that the residents of the area had armed themselves against the authorities. Nor is there any evidence that the residents had the intent, the plans, or the means to attempt to secede from Cambodia. And aside from the fact that some residents had previously joined the Association of Democrats, there is no indication that any statements by the NGO or reports broadcast on Beehive Radio mentioned attempted secession efforts in Cambodia. International and Cambodian NGOs and journalist associations have since stated that the charges against Sonando are more likely linked to Beehive Radio’s long history of independent and critical reporting.

On June 25th, the station aired a report describing a communication submitted to the International Criminal Court (ICC) accusing Cambodian officials of perpetrating crimes against humanity related to forced evictions and displacements. The next day, the Prime Minister publicly called for Mam Sonando’s arrest during a speech which was broadcast nationally on television , when he connected the head of Association of Democrats to events in Kratie.

Please read the whole analysis of Man Sonando case made by LICADHO.


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