Detained Beehive Radio director Mam Sonando (C) is escorted by police at Phnom Penh Municipal Court earlier this month. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post
Mam Sonando, the imprisoned Beehive Radio director and president of the Association of Democrats, made an appeal on Friday for international intervention in securing his release from Prey Sar prison, an NGO official said.
Cambodian Center for Human Rights President Ou Virak, who visited Sonando at Prey Sar, said that Sonando had asked him to seek international advocates, saying that the radio broadcast he suspects landed him in jail was simply an act of independent journalism.
“He still maintained that he was not guilty of the government’s allegations,” Virak said. “He told me not to turn this into a political thing, because it’s just a case of him being a news reporter.”
Virak added that Sonando suspects his imprisonment was related to his coverage of a June 22 complaint filed with the International Criminal Court by the Khmer People Power Movement accusing the Cambodian government of crimes against humanity.
Little more two weeks ago, a coalition of 14 rights groups made just that connection.
Sonando, who has been accused of masterminding a secessionist plot in Kratie’s Pro Ma village – where government forces killed a 14-year-old girl during an eviction – was implicated in the plot in a speech by Prime Minister Hun Sen, a day after his report on the ICC complaint was broadcast.
“Mam Sonando’s detention is a court case by law,” said Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan. “There is no political pressure from any party.”
Meanwhile, members of Sonando’s Association of Democrats in four provinces were prevented by authorities from collecting thumbprints for a petition calling for his release last Tuesday, and even more were stopped in the past few days.
Last Thursday, association member and Buddhist layman Chey Lay, 74, said he was arrested – and later released – by Daun Penh district authorities after collecting the thumbprint of the chief of Daun Penh’s Village 20.
Kandal-based association member Mouk Saren said authorities threatened him with arrest on Saturday if he continued gathering thumbprints, but vowed to continue anyway, adding that he has collected some 2,000 thumbprints in three communes so far.
To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at [email protected]