While Mam Sonando lay in a cramped Prey Sar prison cell yesterday, sweating out a fever, some 100 members of the Association of Democrats burned incense and kneeled in prayer at the Preah Ang Dang Keu shrine, calling for the outspoken Beehive Radio director’s release.
With white shirts emblazoned with his face and Khmer and English placards, the peaceful protesters travelled to the capital from provinces stretching from Kratie to Takeo.
Sonando, also president of the Association of Democrats, was arrested on July 15 on a slew of charges including plotting against public civil servants, insurrection, interference in the fulfilment of public duties and inciting people to use weapons against authorities.
He was wanted by authorities for his alleged involvement in events that led to hundreds of families being evicted from their homes in a land dispute in Kratie’s Pro Ma village, in which a 14-year-old girl was shot dead by government forces.
The protesters held that Sonando was wrongfully accused.
“He did not commit as alleged,” said 35-year-old Touch Some, from Takeo province. “He didn’t do anything wrong. What the government accused him is just to break up the [Association of] Democrats. He never incited the villagers to do anything against the law.”
As reported in the Post, several civil society groups and opposition parties have called the arrest political intimidation.
Yesterday, Sonando was taken to a private cell after he fell ill with a severe flu, but his attorney, Sok Sam Oeun, said his condition has improved.
Oeun, also executive director of Cambodian Defender Project, added that he would request temporary release – or bail – within the next few days.
“When I submit, the court must respond within five days, but I am not confident, as you cannot predict these decisions or the law in Cambodia,” he said.
Sonando was abroad when the Kratie eviction occurred, and returned to Cambodia only four days before his arrest, which coincided with the departure of foreign dignitaries, in town for the ASEAN summit.