Civil society groups condemn arrest of radio station owner

[We are sharing a joint statement of 14 civil society organisations in Cambodia condemning the arrest of independent radio station owner Mr Mam Sonando on 15 July in relation with a broadcast of a submission made by a government critic of a case to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague in the Netherlands.]

 

Release Mam Sonando, Owner of Cambodia’s Oldest Independent Radio Station

Phnom Penh (July 16, 2012) – The undersigned organizations are deeply disturbed by independent radio station director Mam Sonando‟s arrest on Sunday, July 15, 2012, and call for his immediate release. Mr. Sonando, who holds both Cambodian and French citizenship, is the owner of Beehive Radio, which is among the few independent radio stations in Cambodia. Sonando is also the founder and president of the Democrat Association.

On June 25, 2012, Beehive broadcast a report on the International Criminal Court‟s (ICC) June 22 receipt of a lawsuit against the Cambodian government in relation to crimes against humanity. The broadcast included interviews and discussed the lawsuit, which was submitted by government critic Sourn Serey Ratha‟s Khmer People Power Movement. The Beehive report was done by Sonando, who had covered the event at the ICC as a journalist.

Twenty-four hours after the Beehive report first aired, the Prime Minister publicly called for Sonando‟s arrest during a speech in Phnom Penh which was broadcast on national television. The Prime Minister accused Sonando of inciting a secessionist movement in Kratie province. By July 2, Kratie investigating judge Chok Nguon had issued an arrest warrant accusing Sonando of crimes related to participating in an “insurrectionary movement,” inciting people to take up arms against the state, and obstruction of public officials.

Sonando was out of the country when the arrest warrant was issued. He returned to Phnom Penh on July 12 at about 10:15 pm, during the unfolding ASEAN summit. His arrest three days later came barely 24 hours after foreign ministers and diplomats from around the world departed the city, including United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton.

This morning, Sonando was brought before Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Sem Sakola for questioning. At about noon, Sonanda was charged under articles 28, 456, 457, 464, 504, and 609 of the Penal Code. The charges all carry significant prison sentences. A conviction under article 464 alone could be punishable by fifteen to thirty years imprisonment. Mr. Sonando is 70 years old.

Despite the fact that Sonando returned to Cambodia to face these unfounded accusations, he was placed in pre-trial detention this afternoon in Phnom Penh‟s CC1 prison.

The government has attempted to link the charges against Sonando to an ongoing land dispute and violent forced eviction in Kratie province. On May 16, 2012, hundreds of soldiers, military police and local police, aided by a helicopter, stormed a village in Kratie‟s Kampong Domrey commune. The village had been embroiled in an ongoing land dispute with a well-connected private company over a large rubber concession. The government claimed that the military operation, which resulted in the death of a 14-year-old girl, was necessary to stop the villagers from carrying out a plan to secede from Cambodia. At the time, many criticized this justification – none of the armed forces were injured, and there is no evidence that the villagers had any intent or plans to undertake a secessionist movement. Some of the villagers in the area had, however, previously joined the Democrat Association.

“Linking Mam Sonando to this „secession movement‟ story is nothing more than a transparent attempt to attack one of the few independent radio stations in the Kingdom,” said Vorn Pao, President of IDEA. “If Beehive Radio is shut down, critical voices will be silenced months prior to Cambodia‟s next national election – at a time when they are needed more than ever.”

In his June 25 speech, the Prime Minister also revealed that some of the Kratie villagers accused of having taken part in the alleged secession movement had “confessed” and implicated Sonando. The Prime Minister then stated that other accused individuals still sought by the court in Kratie would be forgiven if they too came forward to incriminate Sonando.

This is not the first time Sonando has been targeted by the government. On January 31, 2003, months before Cambodia‟s third national election, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court charged Sonando with announcing false information, inciting people to discriminate, and inciting people to commit crimes. That time, he was released after 2 weeks detention. Sonando was arrested again on October 11, 2005, and eventually charged with defamation, incitement, and broadcasting false information, for having broadcast an interview with an independent expert on politically sensitive issues. That time, he was imprisoned for three months before being released on bail in January 2006 following intense international pressure and a coincidental visit by United States Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia, Christopher Hill.

“There is no room for criminal prosecution of critical speech in a democracy,” said Yeng Virak, Executive Director of Community Legal Education Center, who was imprisoned alongside Sonando for several weeks in 2005. “Unless journalists and media owners are confident that their freedom of expression will be protected, a country‟s democracy simply cannot function legitimately.”

We, the undersigned, call on the government to release Mam Sonando immediately and ensure that he is afforded all fair trial and due process rights as guaranteed in Cambodia‟s Constitution, Code of Criminal Procedure, and international treaty obligations.

  • Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM)
  • Cambodia’s Civil Servants Association (CICA)
  • Cambodian Food and Service Worker Federation (CFSWF)
  • Cambodian Human Rights & Development Association (ADHOC)
  • Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)
  • Cambodian Worker Center for Development (CWCD)
  • Cambodian Youth Network (CYN)
  • Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community (CCFC)
  • Community Legal Education Center (CLEC)
  • Community Peacbuilding Network (CPN)
  • Housing Rights Task Force (HRTF)
  • Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA)
  • People’s Action for Change (PAC)
  • SahmakumTeangTnaut (STT)

 

For more information, please contact:

Mr. Am Sam Ath,, LICADHO, 012-327-770

Mr Yeng Virak, CLEC, 012-801-235

Joint Statement: Release Mam Sonando, Owner of Cambodia’s
Oldest Independent Radio Station
Phnom  Penh  (July  16,  2012)  –  The  undersigned  organizations  are  deeply  disturbed  by
independent radio station director Mam Sonando‟s arrest on Sunday, July 15, 2012, and call
for his immediate release. Mr. Sonando, who holds both Cambodian and French citizenship, is
the owner of Beehive Radio, which is among the few independent radio stations in Cambodia.
Sonando is also the founder and president of the Democrat Association.
On June 25, 2012, Beehive broadcast a report on the International Criminal Court‟s (ICC) June
22  receipt  of  a  lawsuit  against  the  Cambodian  government  in  relation  to  crimes  against
humanity. The broadcast included interviews and discussed the lawsuit, which was submitted
by  government  critic  Sourn  Serey  Ratha‟s  Khmer  People  Power  Movement.  The  Beehive
report was done by Sonando, who had covered the event at the ICC as a journalist.
Twenty-four hours after the Beehive report first aired, the Prime Minister publicly called for
Sonando‟s arrest during a speech in Phnom Penh which was broadcast on national television.
The Prime Minister accused Sonando of inciting a secessionist movement in Kratie province.
By  July  2,  Kratie  investigating  judge  Chok  Nguon  had  issued  an  arrest  warrant  accusing
Sonando of crimes related to participating in an “insurrectionary movement,” inciting people
to take up arms against the state, and obstruction of public officials.
Sonando was out of the country when the arrest warrant was issued. He returned to Phnom
Penh  on  July  12  at  about  10:15  pm,  during  the  unfolding ASEAN  summit.  His  arrest  three
days later came barely 24 hours after foreign ministers and diplomats from around the world
departed  the  city,  including  United  States  Secretary  of  State  Hillary  Clinton  and  the  High
Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton.
This morning, Sonando was brought before Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Sem Sakola
for questioning. At about noon, Sonanda was charged under articles 28, 456, 457, 464, 504, and
609 of the Penal Code. The charges all carry significant prison sentences. A conviction under
article 464 alone could be punishable by fifteen to thirty years imprisonment. Mr. Sonando is
70 years old.
Despite the fact that Sonando returned to Cambodia to face these unfounded accusations, he
was placed in pre-trial detention this afternoon in Phnom Penh‟s CC1 prison.
The  government  has  attempted  to  link  the  charges  against  Sonando  to  an  ongoing  land
dispute and violent forced eviction in Kratie province. On May 16, 2012, hundreds of soldiers,
military police and local police, aided by a helicopter, stormed a village in Kratie‟s Kampong
Domrey commune. The village had been embroiled in an ongoing land dispute with a well-
connected private company over a large rubber concession. The government claimed that the
military operation, which resulted in the death of a 14-year-old girl, was necessary to stop the
villagers from carrying out a plan to secede from Cambodia. At the time, many criticized this
justification  –  none  of  the  armed  forces  were  injured,  and  there  is  no  evidence  that  the
villagers had any intent or plans to undertake a secessionist movement. Some of the villagers
in the area had, however, previously joined the Democrat Association.
“Linking Mam Sonando to this „secession movement‟ story is nothing more than a transparent
attempt to attack one of the few independent radio stations in the Kingdom,” said Vorn Pao, President  of  IDEA.  “If  Beehive  Radio  is  shut  down,  critical  voices  will  be  silenced  months
prior to Cambodia‟s next national election – at a time when they are needed more than ever.”
In  his  June  25  speech,  the  Prime  Minister  also  revealed  that  some  of  the  Kratie  villagers
accused  of  having  taken  part  in  the  alleged  secession  movement  had  “confessed”  and
implicated Sonando. The Prime Minister then stated that other accused individuals still sought
by the court in Kratie would be forgiven if they too came forward to incriminate Sonando.
This is not the first time Sonando has been targeted by the government. On January 31, 2003,
months before Cambodia‟s third national election, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court charged
Sonando  with  announcing  false  information,  inciting  people  to  discriminate,  and  inciting
people to commit crimes. That time, he was released after 2 weeks detention. Sonando was
arrested again on October 11, 2005, and eventually charged with defamation, incitement, and
broadcasting false information, for having broadcast an interview with an independent expert
on  politically  sensitive  issues.  That  time, he  was  imprisoned  for  three months  before  being
released on bail in January 2006 following intense international pressure and a coincidental
visit by United States Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia, Christopher Hill.
“There is no room for criminal prosecution of critical speech in a democracy,” said Yeng Virak,
Executive  Director  of  Community  Legal  Education  Center,  who  was  imprisoned  alongside
Sonando for several weeks in 2005. “Unless journalists and media owners are confident that
their freedom of expression will be protected, a country‟s democracy simply cannot function
legitimately.”
We,  the  undersigned,  call  on  the  government  to  release  Mam  Sonando  immediately  and
ensure that he is afforded all fair trial and due process rights as guaranteed in Cambodia‟s
Constitution, Code of Criminal Procedure, and international treaty obligations.
Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM)
Cambodia’s Civil Servants Association (CICA)
Cambodian Food and Service Worker Federation (CFSWF)
Cambodian Human Rights & Development Association (ADHOC)
Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)
Cambodian Worker Center for Development (CWCD)
Cambodian Youth Network (CYN)
Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community (CCFC)
Community Legal Education Center (CLEC)
Community Peacbuilding Network (CPN)
Housing Rights Task Force (HRTF)
Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA)
People’s Action for Change (PAC)
SahmakumTeangTnaut (STT)
For more information, please contact:
Mr. Am Sam Ath,, LICADHO, 012-327-770
Mr Yeng Virak, CLEC, 012-801-235Joint Statement: Release Mam Sonando, Owner of Cambodia’sOldest Independent Radio Station

 

Phnom Penh (July 16, 2012) – The undersigned organizations are deeply disturbed by

independent radio station director Mam Sonando‟s arrest on Sunday, July 15, 2012, and call

for his immediate release. Mr. Sonando, who holds both Cambodian and French citizenship, is

the owner of Beehive Radio, which is among the few independent radio stations in Cambodia.

Sonando is also the founder and president of the Democrat Association.

 

On June 25, 2012, Beehive broadcast a report on the International Criminal Court‟s (ICC) June

22 receipt of a lawsuit against the Cambodian government in relation to crimes against

humanity. The broadcast included interviews and discussed the lawsuit, which was submitted

by government critic Sourn Serey Ratha‟s Khmer People Power Movement. The Beehive

report was done by Sonando, who had covered the event at the ICC as a journalist.

 

Twenty-four hours after the Beehive report first aired, the Prime Minister publicly called for

Sonando‟s arrest during a speech in Phnom Penh which was broadcast on national television.

The Prime Minister accused Sonando of inciting a secessionist movement in Kratie province.

By July 2, Kratie investigating judge Chok Nguon had issued an arrest warrant accusing

Sonando of crimes related to participating in an “insurrectionary movement,” inciting people

to take up arms against the state, and obstruction of public officials.

 

Sonando was out of the country when the arrest warrant was issued. He returned to Phnom

Penh on July 12 at about 10:15 pm, during the unfolding ASEAN summit. His arrest three

days later came barely 24 hours after foreign ministers and diplomats from around the world

departed the city, including United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the High

Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton.

 

This morning, Sonando was brought before Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Sem Sakola

for questioning. At about noon, Sonanda was charged under articles 28, 456, 457, 464, 504, and

609 of the Penal Code. The charges all carry significant prison sentences. A conviction under

article 464 alone could be punishable by fifteen to thirty years imprisonment. Mr. Sonando is

70 years old.

 

Despite the fact that Sonando returned to Cambodia to face these unfounded accusations, he

was placed in pre-trial detention this afternoon in Phnom Penh‟s CC1 prison.

 

The government has attempted to link the charges against Sonando to an ongoing land

dispute and violent forced eviction in Kratie province. On May 16, 2012, hundreds of soldiers,

military police and local police, aided by a helicopter, stormed a village in Kratie‟s Kampong

Domrey commune. The village had been embroiled in an ongoing land dispute with a well-

connected private company over a large rubber concession. The government claimed that the

military operation, which resulted in the death of a 14-year-old girl, was necessary to stop the

villagers from carrying out a plan to secede from Cambodia. At the time, many criticized this

justification – none of the armed forces were injured, and there is no evidence that the

villagers had any intent or plans to undertake a secessionist movement. Some of the villagers

in the area had, however, previously joined the Democrat Association.

 

“Linking Mam Sonando to this „secession movement‟ story is nothing more than a transparent

attempt to attack one of the few independent radio stations in the Kingdom,” said Vorn Pao, President of IDEA. “If Beehive Radio is shut down, critical voices will be silenced months

prior to Cambodia‟s next national election – at a time when they are needed more than ever.”

 

In his June 25 speech, the Prime Minister also revealed that some of the Kratie villagers

accused of having taken part in the alleged secession movement had “confessed” and

implicated Sonando. The Prime Minister then stated that other accused individuals still sought

by the court in Kratie would be forgiven if they too came forward to incriminate Sonando.

 

This is not the first time Sonando has been targeted by the government. On January 31, 2003,

months before Cambodia‟s third national election, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court charged

Sonando with announcing false information, inciting people to discriminate, and inciting

people to commit crimes. That time, he was released after 2 weeks detention. Sonando was

arrested again on October 11, 2005, and eventually charged with defamation, incitement, and

broadcasting false information, for having broadcast an interview with an independent expert

on politically sensitive issues. That time, he was imprisoned for three months before being

released on bail in January 2006 following intense international pressure and a coincidental

visit by United States Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia, Christopher Hill.

 

“There is no room for criminal prosecution of critical speech in a democracy,” said Yeng Virak,

Executive Director of Community Legal Education Center, who was imprisoned alongside

Sonando for several weeks in 2005. “Unless journalists and media owners are confident that

their freedom of expression will be protected, a country‟s democracy simply cannot function

legitimately.”

 

We, the undersigned, call on the government to release Mam Sonando immediately and

ensure that he is afforded all fair trial and due process rights as guaranteed in Cambodia‟s

Constitution, Code of Criminal Procedure, and international treaty obligations.

 

Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM)

Cambodia’s Civil Servants Association (CICA)

Cambodian Food and Service Worker Federation (CFSWF)

Cambodian Human Rights & Development Association (ADHOC)

Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)

Cambodian Worker Center for Development (CWCD)

Cambodian Youth Network (CYN)

Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community (CCFC)

Community Legal Education Center (CLEC)

Community Peacbuilding Network (CPN)

Housing Rights Task Force (HRTF)

Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA)

People’s Action for Change (PAC)

SahmakumTeangTnaut (STT)

 

For more information, please contact:

Mr. Am Sam Ath,, LICADHO, 012-327-770

Mr Yeng Virak, CLEC, 012-801-235

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