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Court Orders Beehive Radio Owner Held for Trial

Mam Sonando, director of the independent Beehive radio station.
Mam Sonando, director of the independent Beehive radio station.

Police say Beehive Radio operator Mam Sonando has been leading a secessionist movement, inciting people against the Cambodian government.

PHNOM PENH - Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday ordered Beehive Radio operator Mam Sonando remanded to authorities as he awaits trial on charges related to sedition.

Mam Sonando, one of the few remaining independent radio operators in Cambodia and whose station carries VOA programming, was arrested at his Phnom Penh home on Sunday.

Police say he has been leading a secessionist movement and inciting people against the government with his organization, called the Association of Democrats, in the eastern province of Kratie.

He has been accused of leading acts against public officials, illegal rioting in interference of authorities as they perform public work, inciting people to illegally arm themselves and acting against authorities, a police official said Sunday. His case was initiated by the Kratie provincial court and transferred to Phnom Penh court.

He faces up to 14 years in prison if found guilty on all charges he faces, his defense attorney, Sok Sam Oeun.

Local rights groups called for his release on Monday, after he was questioned for two hours by the court and sent to Prey Sar prison outside the capital.

His wife, Din Phanara, said Monday she had been allowed to see Mam Sonando before his hearing. “He told me not to worry,” she said. “He did nothing wrong.”

About 30 supporters stood outside the court in Phnom Penh, including members of the Association of Democrats, the group at the center of the secessionist allegations. Some held portraits of Mam Sonando, calling for his release.

Beehive Radio, which broadcasts on 105 FM in the capital, carries programing by the Voice of America, Radio Free Asia, Radio France International and local opposition and minor political parties.

Ou Virak, head of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, told reporters outside the court the arrest would have broad implications for Cambodian media.

“It’s a big step back for democracy improvement in Cambodia,” he said.