Freedom House Calls for Release of Cambodian Broadcaster Arrested On Sedition Charges
Freedom House condemns the arrest of independent radio owner Mam Sonando on July 15 and calls for his immediate release.
At the request of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, officials apprehended Sonando from his home for allegedly leading a secessionist movement a month after a police crackdown on riots in the eastern province of Kratie over land disputes. His station, Beehive Radio, which includes programming from Voice of America, Radio Free Asia and local opposition groups, is one of the few remaining independent stations in Cambodia. Sonando is also the founder and president of the Democrat Association.
Sonando was in the Hague on June 22, broadcasting a presentation by the dissident group Khmer People Power Movement to the International Criminal Court (ICC) – which accused the Cambodian government of committing crimes against humanity. Twenty-four hours after Sonado’s broadcast aired on June 25, the prime minister called for his arrest in a nationally-televised speech, citing sedition charges under Articles 28, 456, 457, 464, 504, and 609 of the Penal Code. An arrest warrant was issued on July 2, and Sonando returned to Cambodia on July 12. His arrest three days later came barely 24 hours after foreign ministers and diplomats from around the world departed the city, including United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton. If convicted under Article 464 alone, the 70-year-old broadcaster could face 15 to 30 years in prison. Sonado has been denied bail and is currently being held in the notoriously overcrowded Phnom Penh Prey Sar Prison.
Cambodia is rated Not Free in Freedom House’s Freedom in the World 2012 and Freedom of the Press 2011 surveys.