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Sonando visit request denied

Sonando visit request denied

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Mam Sonando, Beehive Radio director and president of the Association of Democrats, is escorted by police at Phnom Penh Municipal Court before being taken to Prey Sar prison last month. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

The Ministry of Interior last week refused to grant a request from opposition lawmakers to visit jailed Beehive Radio director Mam Sonando, referring the request to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, Sam Rainsy Party and ministry officials said yesterday.

SRP parliamentarian Mu Sochua, who had hoped to lead a delegation of lawmakers to visit Sonando on Friday, said that the ministry redirected her request last Thursday and called the move an example of “the procedure in disorder”, adding that the Ministry of Interior was responsible for Sonando’s arrest and so responsible for prison access to him.

“If Mam Sonando is in Prey Sar, why should I go to the court?” Sochua asked, noting that the prison system is under the Ministry of Interior.

Sochua said she had never been asked to refer a request for a visit to any court, despite having visited prisoners in Prey Sar at least three times – most recently to see the so-called Boeung Kak 13.

Each time, she added, the Ministry of Interior had approved her request.

She pointed to the case of former Bavet governor Chhouk Bandith – who was witnessed shooting three striking garment workers but never arrested – as evidence that Sonando’s imprisonment was inappropriate.

“Once you’re in there, you’re treated like a convict,” she said. “Every day in detention without a visit puts a lot more psychological weight on someone who has not been found guilty.”

Kuy Bunsan, the Ministry of Interior’s prison department director general, said the ministry’s position was not outright refusal but that delegates must be court authorised.

“The only request for visiting the accused man that the General Department of Prisons has allowed was the wife and children,” said Bunsan, adding that official delegates could make visits without court authorisation only if the prisoner had been convicted.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court officials could not be reached for comment.

Sonando, also Association of Democrats president, was arrested on July 15 for alleged involvement in the so-called “secessionist plot” in Kratie province, a plot that residents have repeatedly denied.

To contact the reporter on this story: Meas Sokchea at [email protected]
With assistance from Stuart White

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