Supporters of detained Association of Democrats president and Beehive Radio director Mam Sonando were prevented in four provinces from gathering thumbprints for a petition calling for his release yesterday, association members said.
Chea Bamrong, Beehive’s deputy general director, said the petition was to be submitted to government agencies and nine foreign embassies on July 30, but association members were stopped in their tracks by authorities in Kandal, Takeo, Prey Veng and Kratie provinces.
“The authorities prohibited his members for disturbing public order,” Bamrong said, denying that association members caused any disturbance. “All the villagers thought that their president did not do anything wrong; they gave thumbprints to support him altogether.”
Sonando was arrested on July 15 on charges stemming from his alleged involvement in a “secessionist plot” in Kratie province’s Pro Ma village, the site of a land dispute that culminated in a forced eviction and the killing of a 14-year-old girl by government forces.
Association member Khan Bich, 54, from Kandal province’s Prek Luong commune was among the activists prevented from gathering prints, even though “all the villagers volunteered to do it by themselves as they support the director”.
Leakh Leak, Prek Luong commune police chief, said he barred the petitioners because he didn’t know why they were collecting the thumbprints, and that the district governor ordered him to stop them.
“Whenever I receive a new order from the district governor, I will inform them,” he said.
Im Chhieng Horn, another Association of Democrats representative, was arrested – and later released – in Kratie province’s Kampong Kor commune after authorities told him he had not asked for permission to gather thumbprints.
“If [Sonando] did something wrong, we might not dare to help.”
Chan Soveth, a senior investigator for the rights group Adhoc, said that the association’s actions were protected under constitutional law as long as they were peaceful, and accused authorities of acting illegally.
To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at [email protected]