The land of heroes
Our heroes
Our land
Cambodia Kingdom

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cambodian govt critic faces trial

PHNOM PENH — Human rights campaigners on Tuesday called for the release of a Cambodian radio station owner and prominent government critic who faces up to 30 years in prison for an alleged secessionist plot.

Mam Sonando could face a maximum of 30 years in prison if he is convicted of all the charges (AFP/File, Hoang Dinh Nam

Mam Sonando, owner of the independent Beehive station, was arrested on Sunday on charges including insurrection, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, and inciting people to take up weapons against state, his lawyer Sok Sam Oeun told AFP.

He has been accused of masterminding a plot to establish an autonomous region in eastern Kratie province, the scene of violent land rights protests. A teenage girl was shot dead there in May when security forces clashed with demonstrators.
Sonando, the 71-year-old president of campaign group the Association of Democrats, has dismissed the accusations.

If convicted on all charges he could face a maximum of 30 years in prison, according to his lawyer.
He was arrested previously in 2003 and 2005 for his political activities and defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen's government.

The 60-year-old strongman has ruled Cambodia since 1985 and has vowed to remain in power until he is 90 years old.

Sonando's detention came just two days after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton concluded an official visit to Cambodia. He was placed in pretrial detention on Monday afternoon, according to his lawyer.

"Sonando's arrest on the heels of Clinton's visit is a brazen signal that Hun Sen thinks that the US wants his cooperation on other matters so much that he isn't afraid to lower the boom on his critics," said Brad Adams, Asia director of New York-based Human Rights Watch.

The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, a coalition of 22 local rights groups, also urged the authorities to immediately free Sonando so as "to save the country's reputation", saying his arrest lacked legal grounds.

Activists say land conflicts are Cambodia's most pressing human rights issue. Protests have intensified this year and campaigners say the authorities are increasingly cracking down on dissent.
Read more!

Cambodian broadcaster detained on insurrection charges

Radio journalist Mam Sonando, seen here with police in court in 2005, was charged with anti-state activities on Monday. (Reuters/Chor Sokunthea)

Radio journalist Mam Sonando, seen here with police in court in 2005, was charged with anti-state activities on Monday. (Reuters/Chor Sokunthea)

Bangkok, July 17, 2012--Cambodian authorities should immediately release Mam Sonando, one of the country's leading critical journalists, who has been held since Sunday on anti-state charges, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

More than 20 officers arrested Mam Sonando, owner, director, and political commentator of Beehive Radio, one of Cambodia's few independent news outlets, at his home in Phnom Penh, the capital, according to news reports. Police questioned him for more than two hours on Monday, and then lodged anti-state charges against him that included insurrection, news reports said. Mam Sonando could face up to 14 years in prison, the reports said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen and other government officials accused Mam Sonando of orchestrating recent protests in Kratie province in which villagers clashed with security forces over a land dispute with a private Russian company, according to news reports. Tensions surged in May when a 14-year-old girl was killed during a military operation to clear the land for foreign development, reports said. Beehive Radio frequently airs reports on human rights-related issues, including what it called a recent surge in the state-backed seizure of land across the country.

The journalist was denied bail and is being held in Phnom Penh's notoriously overcrowded Prey Sar Prison, according to news reports citing his lawyer.

"Prime Minister Hun Sen has a well-worn history of leveling unsubstantiated anti-state charges against journalists to stifle criticism of the administration," said Shawn Crispin, CPJ's senior Southeast Asia representative. "The insurrection charges fit a disturbing retaliatory pattern, and authorities must drop them immediately."

Police detained Mam Sonando just days after the conclusion of the high-profile Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting in Phnom Penh, according to news reports. By Sunday, most top foreign dignitaries and members of the international press had left the country, the reports said.

This marks the third time Mam Sonando has been imprisoned for his reporting, according to CPJ research. In 2005, he was jailed for three months after Hun Sen filed criminal defamation charges against him over a Beehive Radio broadcast on territorial concessions the government planned to make to Vietnam. In 2003, the journalist was jailed after being charged with inciting riots after broadcasting news of the anti-Thai rioting in Phnom Penh.
Read more!