Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Man sentenced for Angkor comments seeks pardon

Man sentenced for Angkor comments seeks pardon

Man sentenced for Angkor comments seeks pardon

121031_03b

Moeung Sonn (R) speaks during a press conference in Phnom Penh in 2008. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

Moeung Sonn (R) speaks during a press conference in Phnom Penh in 2008. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

Moeung Sonn, president of the Khmer Civilisation Fund, wants to get back to Cambodia. But for now, at least, he’ll have to settle for close to Cambodia.

Sonn, who was convicted in 2009 of disseminating false information when he protested about a lighting project at Angkor Wat, occasionally rents a room near Cambodia’s border with Thailand, where he fled to avoid prison.

That close to home, Sonn can make local calls with his old mobile phone, and sometimes friends cross the border for little reunions.

It’s the closest the 65-year-old can get, although he hopes that is about to change.

In the wake of King Father Norodom Sihanouk’s death, Sonn has requested leniency on his two-year sentence, which judges handed down with a $3,750 fine after he claimed that installing lights at the temple would result in drilling and damage.

The government dismissed the allegation, as did the Apsara Authority.

In May, 2011, the appeal court reduced Sonn’s fine and changed the charge to incitement.

“I’m afraid I won’t go back to Cambodia if there isn’t an amnesty from King Sihamoni or Prime Minister Hun Sen,” he said, having sent letters to both men. Authorities, he said, “will toss me in jail”.

Asked if Sonn would be allowed to return, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said the judiciary was an independent body that made independent decisions.

“The government has a chance to overrule the court’s decision? I don’t think so.

“He misinformed people, he accused the government of destroying Angkor Wat,” Siphan said, adding that experts had debunked Sonn’s claims that the temple, Cambodia’s main tourist draw, would be harmed.

In an act that is becoming more common since Sihanouk’s death on October 15, Sonn also called for the release of political prisoners.

He asked that, among others, independent radio station owner Mam Sonando, who was sentenced to 20 years earlier this month for his involvement in a so-called secessionist plot, be released.

Lao Mong Hay, an independent analyst, said pardons normally happened during large national ceremonies, but in this case the requestors were guilty of insensitivity.

“We have to consider a suitable time, because now we are mourning the King Father.”

Sonn believes there may be a shift in the political winds after the 2013 national elections. He said he was getting older and wanted to enjoy the golden years at home.

“That’s why I have to come back: to retire in my homeland,” he said.

To contact the reporters on this story: May Titthara at [email protected]
Joe Freeman at [email protected]

MOST VIEWED

  • Negotiations on EBA being held

    In an effort to defuse tensions, a senior government official said Cambodia is negotiating with the European Union (EU) on the Everything But Arms (EBA) trade deal, which allows the Kingdom to export goods to the 28-member bloc tariff-free. The EU notified Cambodia on October 5

  • Ministers to tackle sea pollutants

    Preah Sihanouk provincial authorities and members of local communities have collected 77 tonnes of water hyacinth at a Sihanoukville beach, Preah Sihanouk Provincial Hall spokesperson Or Saroeun said. He told The Post yesterday that the aquatic weeds had been floating along some of the province’s

  • Chinese police escort deported scam suspects

    Ninety-one Chinese nationals accused of extorting money from victims in a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) scam were deported from Phnom Penh International Airport on Monday under the escort of 182 Chinese police personnel. General Department of Immigration head of investigations Ouk Hay Seila told reporters

  • Sam Rainsy, government group set to clash at IPU Geneva meet?

    Opposition figure Sam Rainsy has been invited to speak at the General Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in Geneva, according to a former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) lawmaker. A government delegation is also set to attend the meeting, a National Assembly press release