Tell Cambodia to Release Political Critic from Prison

Target: Cambodian Government

Goal: Release media director and political critic Mam Sonando from prison

The Cambodian government called for the arrest of prominent radio station director and media critic Mam Sonando in June. Sonando owns the country’s main politically independent radio station, and has been known to critique and criticize the actions of Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Sonando owns Beehive Radio, the most openly critical and politically independent radio station in Cambodia. He has overtly criticized the Prime Minister for years, and has been arrested twice before for nonviolent infractions. Additionally, Sonando is the president of the Association of Democrats, an organization that works to promote human rights and democracy education.

On July 15, 2012, Sonando was arrested at his home and charged with six violations—he could be sentenced to prison for up to 30 years. In an interesting turn of events, Sonando was arrested just two days after the Regional Forum of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which was hosted by Cambodia. He was not arrested until all international press and prominent international leaders—like U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—had departed.

“Sonando’s arrest on the heels of Clinton’s visit is a brazen signal that Hun Sen thinks that the U.S. wants his cooperation on other matters so much that he isn’t afraid to lower the boom on his critics,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at the Human Rights Watch. “He may have gotten that impression after the U.S. and other delegations neglected to publicly comment on the country’s rapidly deteriorating human rights situation. The U.S. now needs to take strong and public steps to pick up the pieces.”

According to an article by The Human Rights Watch, PM Hun Sen originally accused Sonando of being linked to an alleged secessionist movement that originated in Prama village. The people of Prama had been protesting against a local rubber company that was stealing land from the villagers. The village was subsequently ransacked by the Cambodian military, in a raid that killed a fourteen-year-old girl who died of gunshot wounds—no one has been arrested or charged for this brutal, needless killing. Hun Sen maintains that Sonando was instrumental in the supposed conspiracy secession plan.

“Instead of holding the soldier and his superiors responsible for killing a 14-year-old girl, Hun Sen has instead come up with a bizarre claim that a poor, rural village was attempting to secede from Cambodia and the country’s most important media critic was somehow part of this conspiracy,” said Adams.

This is a situation that warrants international attention. Prime Minister Hun Sen cannot arrest and falsely accuse those who oppose him on a whim. Sonando is an independent voice of reason, and his radio station helps hold the Cambodian government accountable for its actions. Please sign below to have him released from jail and have these ridiculous charges dropped.


Dear Government Officials of Cambodia,

The unfounded arrest and detainment of Mam Sonando is a human rights violation. Mr. Sonando has done nothing to warrant this arrest. He is only guilty of speaking his mind and openly criticizing Prime Minister Hun Sen —this hardly calls for arrest.

Moreover, it seems like the arrest of Mr. Sonando came at a questionable time. International powers and world leaders had just left Cambodia when Mam Sonando was arrested. Furthermore, the Prime Minister’s reasoning behind the arrest is completely fabricated. To accuse a small rural village of plotting a conspiracy and placing Sonando at the head of this plot are ridiculous accusations, and ones that are very transparent.

Please proceed with integrity and release Mam Sonando from prison. There is no reason for this situation to persist.


[Your Name Here]


Photo credit: Freedom & Press Monitor – Cambodia

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