WASHINGTON DC - Rights workers say they are still waiting to see evidence in court that jailed radio owner Mam Sonando was involved in an alleged secesionist movement.
Suon Bunsak, chief secretary for the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, a consortium of rights groups, and Suon Bunthoeun, a rights defender for the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, told “Hello VOA” Thursday they are awaiting the trial process and expect there will be little evidence to convict Mam Sonando, who owns Beehive Radio, one of the few independent broadcast media outlets in the country.
“Even though in this case we do not agree with the actions [of the authorities], we’re waiting for the court to take the question of whether this case will be found to be as the government accuses, or whether Mam Sonando is not involved as accused,” said Suon Bunsak. “We’ll leave it up to the court to judge this case.”
Mam Sonando has been in jail since his arrest in mid-July, awaiting trial on charges he led a secessionist movement in Kratie province. Some observers have said, however, the “movement” was in fact nothing more than a violent clash of villagers with authorities over a land protest in May.
Authorities have so far provided no public evidence of an organized uprising to take over the government, and Mam Sonando has denied any involvement with such movement.
“We are waiting for the trial process,” said Suon Bunthoeun. “I think that because there is a denial [of guilt] and no evidence that Mr. Mam Sonando stood behind the secession, he can go free.”
Both activists say the Kratie crackdown and its aftermath have threatened freedoms of the country’s NGOs, which they said provide valuable aid to Cambodia in politics, economics, health, education, legal development and other sectors.
That includes limited right to assembly, Suon Bunsak said, because authorities are strict about giving permission for forums or training seminars, especially in the provinces.
“The breath of freedom seems to be opened and closed by the authorities,” he said.