The Phnom Penh Municipal Court had summonsed 40 people to face charges and serve as witnesses in the trial of jailed Beehive Radio director Mam Sonando, slated to begin next week, a court official said yesterday.
According to deputy prosecutor Meas Chanpiseth, the summonses were issued last month calling on the host of participants to appear on Tuesday, September 11 to offer evidence – or, in some cases, to face accusations – relating to the alleged “secessionist” plot in Kratie province that Sonando has been accused of masterminding.
“In total, there are 40 people including witnesses [and accused men],” Chanpiseth said, declining to elaborate on how many of the 40 were witnesses, and how many were defendants.
Chanpiseth added that the presiding judge would determine how to handle the cases of those who failed to appear in court.
Sonando, who is also the president of the Association of Democrats, has been charged with four separate crimes related to his alleged attempt to foment a secessionist movement in Kratie.
Sonando has repeatedly denied such plans.
The government first levelled the accusations of secession in the wake of a forced land eviction at Kratie’s Pro Ma village, during which a 14-year-old girl was fatally shot by government soldiers.
Officials later described the eviction as a necessary “anti-secessionist” operation.
Sonando’s lawyer, Cambodian Defenders Project executive director Sok Sam Oeun, said yesterday he had heard that people were being summonsed, but their identities were not released.
Given the source of the summonses, he added, it was likely that the witnesses were being called to add weight to the prosecution’s claims.
“It’s based on the answers in the police report. It’s in the interest of those charging,” he said, noting that, nonetheless, statements given in court could sometimes differ from those given to police.
Sam Oeun said he had also requested that the court summons Association of Democrats deputy president Chea Bamrong, along with the association’s Kratie president and deputy president, Vech Kimchhorn and Kov Rithy, respectively.
When contacted yesterday, Chea Bamrong and Kov Rithy said that they were unsure whether they would appear in court, adding that it depended on the situation at that time.
To contact the reporter on this story: Meas Sokchea at [email protected]