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Petitions for Mam Sonando release hit embassies

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Khoun Phannavy (C), deputy general director of the Association of Democrats, speaks to reporters outside the US Embassy in Phnom Penh yesterday. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

Khoun Phannavy (C), deputy general director of the Association of Democrats, speaks to reporters outside the US Embassy in Phnom Penh yesterday. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

The Association of Democrats claims to have secured more than 45,000 thumbprints for petitions submitted to foreign embassies yesterday demanding the release of their arrested president, Mam Sonando.

Sonando, an outspoken government critic who disseminated his views on-air as director of the Beehive radio station, was arrested on July 15 in connection with a so-called secessionist plot months earlier.

The deputy general director of the Association of Democrats, Khoun Phannavy, said yesterday 46,000 thumbprints had been collected for petitions submitted to embassies including those for the US, France, Japan, Singapore, Germany, Thailand and Australia.

“The reason why we do this is that we found that the president did not do anything wrong. He was not involved in the accusation of being behind an autonomous area,” she said.

On May 16, a large government security force stormed a village in Kratie province and opened fired on residents, killing a 14-year-old girl in what the government claimed was a crackdown on a secessionist movement but community leaders said was a forced eviction.

There has been no investigation into the killing of the girl, which took place at Pro Ma village in Chhlong district’s Kampong Damrei commune.

The US, French and other embassies could not be reached for comment.

Sonando’s lawyer and executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, Sok Sam Oeun, said he would submit a letter requesting Phnom Penh Municipal Court release his client from Prey Sar prison because of his ailing health.

“If the court declines to release my client on bail, I have two choices. I can file an appeal, [and if they reject it] in one month more, I will do it again,” he said.

Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, has also been meeting union bosses from 35 factories to organise a campaign to push for Sonando’s release.

To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at titthara.may@phnompenhpost.com

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