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Sonando claims resignation letter only posted to ‘test’ reaction

Beehive Radio founder Mam Sonando attends a protest at the Ministry of Labour in 2014. Sonando posted a letter announcing his resignation yesterday, only to take it down hours later.
Beehive Radio founder Mam Sonando attends a protest at the Ministry of Labour in 2014. Sonando posted a letter announcing his resignation yesterday, only to take it down hours later. Pha Lina

Sonando claims resignation letter only posted to ‘test’ reaction

Often-critical broadcaster Mam Sonando published a letter on Facebook yesterday resigning from his popular Beehive Radio station, only to later delete the post, maintaining he only wanted to “test” the public’s reaction.

Sonando told The Post he was “50-50” as to whether to resign or not.

“It is not an official [resignation]. If it was official I would send the official letter to the Ministry of Information,” he said. “It’s just my survey to test the people’s mind [to see] how they would think . . . if I actually stopped joining politics and resigned as radio director.”

Asked why he had taken down the post after few hours, he said he only wanted to “awaken” his supporters, but refused to disclose how they had reacted before he removed it.

Sonando was recently summonsed as the first witness in the “treason” case against jailed opposition leader Kem Sokha, and said yesterday that the alleged connection had put him “in danger”.

“It is not a joke,” he said.

Sonando did not appear for the first two summonses and yesterday reiterated he would not appear next week for a third as he believed the government would arrest him, as they had three times before.

“Now I am 77 years old. I am not afraid of jail, but if I know that if I return they will put me in jail, why would I return?”

Khieu Sopheak, Ministry of Interior spokesman, insisted Sonando had no reason to fear arrest if he appeared as witness. “So far we don’t have an arrest warrant,” he said. “[But] if he opposes the court to convene . . . the third time, the court will issue an arrest warrant.”

Cambodian People’s Party spokesman Sok Eysan said Sonando committed a crime “like Kem Sokha” if he ignored the court order, referring to a past case in which Sokha was convicted of failing to honour multiple summonses.

“If he is pure gold, don’t be afraid of fire,” Eysan said, paraphrasing a Khmer proverb about gold being forged into jewellery.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesman Y Rin and Investigating Judge Ky Rithy could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Political analyst Ou Virak suspected Sonando wanted to get attention with his fake resignation to raise money.

“He hasn’t been as critical as he used to be . . . He’s not as popular as he used to be,” he said. “He might just want some attention that he’s been not getting in the past few years.”

But Sonando said his radio station still maintained the same standards, though he admitted it had struggled recently after the government prohibited it from broadcasting Voice of America and Radio Free Asia.

“So now my radio gets fewer jobs, less income, and I am thinking about whether to continue it,” he said.

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