Cambodia: Independent radio station director Mam Sonando arrested and charged
OBSERVATORY - PRESS RELEASE
radio station director arrested and charged
Mr. Sonando was abroad when the arrest warrant was issued and he
returned to Cambodia on July 12, 2012. In the morning on July 15, the police
arrested Mr. Mam Sonando at his home in Phnom Penh. On July 16, he was
formally charged by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court under six articles under the
Each of these charges carries long prison terms. The presiding judge denied Mr.
Sonando’s application for bail, ignoring the fact that Mr. Sonando voluntarily
returned to Cambodia despite the serious accusations levelled against him,
which seems to indicate he has no intention to flee. He is now in pre-trial
detention in CC1 prison in Phnom Penh.
Mr. Sonando is 70-year-old and holds both Cambodian and French
citizenships. He is also the president of the Democrats Association, a
non-governmental organisation duly registered with the Ministry of Interior
with a mission to advocate for democratic freedoms and to raise awareness of
civil and political rights.
The latest charges stem from accusations by the government that Mr.
Sonando was responsible for instigating villagers inhabiting an area of
farmland in Kratie province marked for development by the Russian company
Casotim, which has been granted a 15,000 hectare economic land concession. On
May 16, the government sent in hundreds of armed security personnel, supported
by helicopter, to evict the villagers, killing Heng Chantha, a 14-year-old
girl, during the crackdown. Government officials later justified the operation
by claiming the villagers, some of whom are members of the Democrats
Association, were part of an attempt to secede from Cambodia. The authorities
have so far failed to initiate an investigation into the military siege and the
killing of Heng Chantha. Authorities have also failed to release any evidence
of the so-called secessionist movement.
On June 22 2012, Mr. Sonando was in the Hague, the Netherlands, to cover
the presentation of a communication to the Office of the Prosecutor of the
International Criminal Court (ICC) containing allegations of crimes against
humanity committed by the Cambodian government. The communication was submitted
by the Khmer People Power Movement (KPPM), which is headed by prominent
government critic Sourn Serey Ratha. On June 22, the ICC acknowledged in
writing the receipt of KPPM’s communication. Mr. Sonando’s report on
KPPM’s communication to the ICC was
broadcast by Beehive station on June 25. A day later, on June 26, Prime
Minister Hun Sen urged in a nationally broadcasted public speech that Mr.
Sonando be arrested for masterminding “a plot to overthrow the government and
attempting to establish a state within a state”. No evidence has been presented
to substantiate this claim.
baseless charges against Mam Sonando are the latest examples of the Cambodian
government’s tendency to intimidate critical voices, in particular human rights
defenders, and flaunt its human rights obligations under the domestic and
international law”, said Debbie Stothard,
FIDH Deputy Secretary-General.
Mr. Sonando has been imprisoned twice before. In 2003, he served two
weeks in prison after being charged with giving "false" information
and inciting people to commit crimes and to discriminate, in connection to a
telephone call made to a program broadcast by Beehive radio in January 2003. In
2005, he was again arrested and imprisoned for three months on charges of
incitement and defamation for giving an interview over the radio in which
criticism of a border treaty between Cambodia and Vietnam was discussed.
The Observatory calls on the Cambodian authorities to drop all charges
against Mam Sonando and release him immediately and without conditions, as his
detention is arbitrary and the judicial proceedings against him appear to be
aimed at sanctioning the exercise of his legitimate right to freedom of
expression, protected by both the Cambodian Constitution and the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Cambodia has ratified.
of making peaceful speech a crime, Cambodia should be investigating wrongful
acts by state agents in cases involving excessive use of force against those
protesting against widespread land-grabbing and other human rights abuses”, urged Ms. Stothard.
For further information, please contact:
FIDH: Karine Appy / Arthur Manet: +
33 1 43 55 25 18
OMCT: Isabelle Scherer: + 41 22 809