PHNOM PENH - With a court hearing set to hear bail arguments for jailed radio owner Mam Sonando coming on the heels of a visit by the US president, a leading analyst says the odds are good he will be released.
In a meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen in November, US President Barack Obama specifically pointed to the detention of Mam Sonando, who is serving a 20-year prison sentence for charges related to sedition, as a case of concern. Mam Sonando is the owner of Beehive radio, one of the few independent broadcasters in Cambodia, which carries programming from the Voice of America, Radio Free Asia and other international broadcasters.
The Court of Appeals is scheduled to hold a bail hearing on Friday.
Analyst Lao Monghay told VOA Khmer that a scheduled hearing likely means he will be released, as Cambodia attempts to improve its relations with the US. The US considers his case political, and says his detention, and other rights abuses, are obstacles to better relations.
A court release of Mam Sonando, who was arrested in July after publicly criticizing Hun Sen, on charges rights groups say have thin evidence, would be a “positive sign” for the human rights situation in Cambodia, Lao Monghay said.
Thun Saray, president of the rights group Adhoc, said Mam Sonando had returned to the country from the US knowing he would be charged, instead of fleeing. He said he also believes the courts will release Mam Sonando.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan said the Mam Sonando case remains an affair for the courts to decide. He declined to predict whether Mam Sonando would be released.