Urgent Interventions

Refusal to release on bail Mr. Mam Sonando


New information

KHM 005 / 1212 / OBS 117

Denial of bail /

Ongoingarbitrary detention


December17, 2012

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a jointprogramme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and theInternational Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), has received new informationand requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Cambodia.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by the Cambodian Center for HumanRights (CCHR), the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC)and the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights(LICADHO) of the refusal to release on bail Mr. Mam Sonando, Director and owner of the independent FM station 105 (BeehiveRadio) and President of the non-governmental organisation Democrats'Association[1].Mr. Mam Sonando is an outspoken critic of theGovernment's human rights record, including serious and systematic violationsof land and housing rights.

According to the information received, on December 14, 2012, the Courtof Appeal in Phnom Penh delivered its decision not to grant release on bail toMr. Mam Sonando pending his appeal, on the grounds that histemporary release, even under house arrest, would threaten social order, wouldbe unacceptable due to the seriousness of the case and the length of thesentence, and would put the witnesses who testified against him in danger ofharassment. At the trial, Mr. Mam Sonando, who is 71years old and whose health is deteriorating, protested his innocence andinsisted that he would be present at his appeal hearing.

TheObservatory recalls that on October 1, 2012, the Phnom Penh Municipal Courtsentenced Mr. Mam Sonando to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 10 millionriels after being found guilty on charges of insurrectionand inciting people to take up arms against the State under six articles under thePenal Code, in the framework of a long-running land conflictwith a private company in Kratie province[2].

Mr.Sonando’s arrest also followed his reporting over Beehive Radio of a complaint lodged at the International CriminalCourt (ICC) arguing that land-grabbing in Cambodia amounts to a crime againsthumanity. A public call for his arrest was then issued by Prime Minister HunSen in a nationwide televised speech the day after the report.

On October 12, 2012, Mr. Mam Sonando filed for appeal ofthe verdict, but the Municipal Court failed to send the case file to the AppealCourt within the ten days required by law, hence delaying proceedings. Mr. MamSonando's lawyer submitted the bail motion to the Appeal Court on behalf of hisclient on December 5, 2012. The request was made under Articles 306 and 307 ofthe Criminal Code of Procedure 2007.

The Observatory reiterates its demand on the Cambodian authorities forthe immediate and unconditional release of Mr. MamSonando, as his detention seems to merely aim atobstructing his human rights activities and appears to be a result of himexercising his right to freedoms of expression and association.

Background information:

Mr.Mam Sonando holds both Cambodian and French citizenships. The Beehive RadioStation, which he runs,regularly broadcasts reports that are critical of government policies.

Mr. Mam Sonando wasabroad when the arrest warrant was issued and he returned to Cambodia on July12, 2012. He was arrested on July 15, 2012 at his home in PhnomPenh and the next day was placed under detention on remand.

The charges against Mr.Sonando stem from accusations by the Government that Mr. Sonando wasresponsible for instigating villagers inhabiting an area of farmland in Kratieprovince marked for development by the Russian company Casotim, which has beengranted a 15,000-hectare economic land concession. On May 16, the Governmentsent in hundreds of armed security personnel, supported by helicopter, to evictthe 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 attemptto secede from Cambodia.

On June 22, 2012, Mr.Sonando was in the Hague, the Netherlands, to cover the presentation of acommunication to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International CriminalCourt (ICC) containing allegations of crimes against humanity committed by theCambodian Government. The communication was submitted by the Khmer People PowerMovement (KPPM), which is headed by prominent critic of the government SournSerey Ratha. On June 22, the ICC acknowledged in writing the receipt of KPPM’scommunication. Mr. Sonando’s report on KPPM’s communication to the ICC wasbroadcast by Beehive Radio on June 25. A day later, on June 26,Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen urged in a nationally broadcasted publicspeech that Mr. Sonando be arrested for masterminding “a plot to overthrowthe Government and attempting to establish a State within a State”. Noevidence has been presented to substantiate this claim.

On July 16, 2012, he wasformally charged by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court under six articles under thePenal Code[3].Each of these charges carries long prison terms. The presiding judge denied Mr.Sonando’s application for bail, ignoring the fact that Mr. Sonando voluntarilyreturned to Cambodia despite the serious accusations levelled against him,which seems to indicate he has no intention to flee.

Mr. Sonando has beenimprisoned twice before. In 2003, he served two weeks in prison after beingcharged with giving "false" information and inciting people to commitcrimes and to discriminate, in connection to a telephone call made to a programbroadcast by Beehive radio in January 2003. In 2005, he was againarrested and imprisoned for three months on charges of incitement anddefamation for giving an interview over the radio in which criticism of aborder treaty between Cambodia and Vietnam was discussed.

Actions requested:

Please write to the Cambodian authorities urging them to:

i. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical and psychologicalintegrity of Mr. Mam Sonando, as well as of all human rights defenders in Cambodia;

ii. Release Mr. Mam Sonando immediately and unconditionally, since hisdetention is arbitrary as it only aims at obstructing his human rightsactivities and appears to be a result of himexercising his right to freedoms of expression and association;

iii. Put an end to acts of harassment - including at the judicial level -against Mr. Mam Sonando and all human rights defenders in Cambodia;

iv. Comply with all the provisions of the Declaration on Human RightsDefenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly,in particular:

· its Article 1, whichstates that “everyone has the right, individually or in association withothers, to promote the protection and realization of human rights andfundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”,

· its Article 6.a, whichstates that "everyone has the right individually and in association withothers to know, seek, obtain, receive and hold information about all humanrights and fundamental freedoms, including having access to information as tohow those rights and freedoms are given effect in domestic legislative,judicial or administrative systems",

· Article 12.1, whichforesees that “everyone has the right, individually and in association withothers, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of humanrights and fundamental freedoms”,

· and its Article 12.2which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure theprotection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and inassociation with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de factoor de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as aconsequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in thepresent Declaration.”

v. Guarantee the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms inaccordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and otherinternational human rights instruments ratified by Cambodia.


· Mr. Hun Sen, Prime Minister, Officeof the Prime Minister, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia, Fax: +855 23 36 06 66 /855 23 88 06 24 (c/o Council of Ministers), Email: /

· Mr. H.E. Ang Vong Vathna, Ministerof Justice, No 240, Sothearos Blvd, Phnom Penh, Kingdom of Cambodia, Fax: 023364119. Email:

· Mr. Sar Kheng, Deputy Prime Ministerand Minister of Interior, Ministry of Interior, 275 Norodom Blvd, Phnom Penh,Kingdom of Cambodia, Fax: + 855 23 212708. Email:

· Mr. Hor Nam Hong, Deputy Prime Ministerand Minister of Foreign Affairs, 161 Preah Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh, Kingdomof Cambodia, Fax: + 855 23 21 61 44 / + 855 23 21 69 39. Email:

· Ambassador Mr. Sun Suon, PermanentMission of Cambodia to the United Nations in Geneva, Chemin de Taverney 3, Casepostale 213, 1218 Grand-Saconnex, Switzerland, Fax: + 41 22 788 77 74. Email:;

Please also write to the diplomaticrepresentations of Cambodia in your respective countries.


Geneva-Paris, December 17, 2012

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appealin your reply.

The Observatory, an OMCT and FIDH venture, is dedicated to theprotection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support intheir time of need.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:


· Teland fax OMCT: + 41 22 809 49 39 / 41 22 809 49 29

· Tel and fax FIDH: +33(0) 1 43 55 25 18 / 01 43 55 18 80

[1] The Democrats' Association works toeducate the Cambodian people about their civil and political rights, and isregistered with the Ministry of Interior.

[2] See Observatory Press Release,October 2, 2012.

[3] Article 28 defines the crime ofinstigation of felony or a misdemeanor (felony is punishable by lifeimprisonment or by more than five years but no more than 30 years, while a finemay also be imposed in addition to imprisonment; a misdemeanor is punishable byimprisonment between six days to five years, while a fine may also be imposedin addition to imprisonment); Articles 456 and 457 define the crime ofinsurrectionary movement (punishable by imprisonment from seven to 15 years);Article 464 defines the crime of inciting people to take up arms against stateauthority (punishable by imprisonment from 15 to 30 years if effective);Article 504 defines the crime of obstruction of public officials (punishable byimprisonment from six months to one year and a fine from one million to twomillion Riels); Article 609 defines the crime of unlawful interference in thedischarge of public functions (punishable by imprisonment from one to threeyears and a fine from two million to six million Riels).