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Imprisoned Sonando nominated for rights award

130207 02a
Beehive Radio director Mam Sondando (R) waves as he arrives at the municipal court in Phnom Penh in 2012. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

Beehive Radio director Mam Sondando (R) waves as he arrives at the municipal court in Phnom Penh in 2012. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

Imprisoned activist and former Beehive independent radio director Mam Sonando has been nominated for an international human rights award.

Front Line Defenders, an organisation based in Ireland that provides practical support to rights activists, has selected Sonando as a finalist for its eponymous award, which seeks to highlight the work of activists who put their lives at risk.

Sonando, who was convicted on October 1 and sentenced to 20 years in prison for his role in co-writing a secessionist plot – charges widely believed to have been trumped up – is among six activists shortlisted for the award.

Also in the running are nominees from Uzbekistan, Mauritania, Iran, Kenya and Colombia. The winner will be announced at an awards ceremony to take place in Dublin later this year.

The news isn’t causing too much of a stir among Sonando backers, who’ve had no shortage of support from outside Cambodia.

US President Barack Obama even expressed his concern when he met with Prime Minister Hun Sen during the ASEAN Summit in November.

Huon Pannary, secretary for Sonando’s Association of Democrats group, said winning the award could be an honour for Sonando − and his first such honor since the October conviction − but that they have little impact on his actual case.

“I know the government doesn’t care.”

Pannary said Sonando, who is turning 72 next week and has been in Prey Sar prison in Phnom Penh more than 200 days, is suffering from lack of sleep and still has an ache in one of his wisdom teeth.

“He’s had a toothache for a month already; he’s requested for a dentist, but no response from the government. One private doctor came to the prison and said he didn’t have the equipment,” she said.

In its statement announcing the finalists, Front Line Defenders described Sonando as someone who “has devoted his life to helping the poor and disenfranchised of Cambodia, fighting for their rights”.

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers Press and Quick Reaction Unit, could not be reached.

 

To contact the reporter on this story: Joe Freeman at joseph.freeman@phnompenhpost.com
 

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