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Cambodian Activist Sentenced

Mam Sonando (C), a 71-year-old radio broadcaster and land-rights campaigner for 20 years, gestures after his verdict at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, October 1, 2012.

A Cambodian court sentenced Cambodian dissident Mam Sonando to 20 years in prison.

A Cambodian court sentenced Cambodian dissident Mam Sonando to 20 years in prison and fined him $2,500 for allegedly masterminding a secessionist plot. Mr. Sonando is the owner of Cambodia’s main independent radio station, Beehive Radio, and a prominent critic of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. Mr. Sonando has rejected the government’s charges as baseless, and according to his wife, will appeal the conviction meted out by the Phnom Penh municipal court. Mr. Sonando has vowed to carry on fighting for justice, saying “I am happy and proud to continue helping the Khmer people.”

Cambodian Activist Sentenced
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The United States is deeply concerned by the conviction and harsh sentence of Mam Sonando. A number of observers in Cambodia have noted that the charges against him appear to have been politically-motivated, based on his frequent criticism of the government.

The arrest and sentencing of 71-year-old Mr. Sanondo is also seen as an attack on Beehive Radio, which advocates for human rights and democracy in Cambodia. The station provides a forum for a broad spectrum of views, including those of civil society, and has advocated for rule of law, and electoral education and monitoring. As an independent radio station, Beehive Radio’s role in Cambodia is critical in providing the Cambodian people an alternate source of information and analysis as electronic media are almost entirely controlled by the government.

The United States strongly supports freedom of expression, including the rights of members of the press to peacefully express political views without fear of persecution, retribution, or intimidation. The United States therefore has called on the Cambodian government to release Mam Sonando immediately, to ensure that its court system is free from political influence, and to reaffirm its commitment to guaranteeing its citizens’ basic human rights.