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Future of Beehive Radio ‘Dark,’ Operator Says

Mam Sonando, the owner of Beehive Radio, is the guest on 'Hello VOA' in live Voice of America studio in Washington, D.C., file photo.
WASHINGTON DC - The Cambodian government is putting an increasing amount of pressure on broadcasters, requiring complicated bureaucratic procedures for sponsors and other measures, Mam Sonando, the operator of one of Cambodia’s last independent stations, Beehive Radio, says.

Mam Sonando, who was released from eight months in prison earlier this year, told VOA Khmer in an interview in Washington that the future of his own station is “completely dark.”

He has had trouble getting commercial sponsors, and those who wish to broadcast programming on Beehive have to go through a byzantine system established by the Ministry of Information, he said. This has turned away some supporters, he said.

“If the Ministry of Information does not allow me to get commercials, by requiring my sponsors to seek permission, how can Beehive Radio survive?” he said.

Beehive, which broadcasts programming by the Voice of America, Radio Free Asia, Radio France International and others, has tried to expand its coverage into other provinces, but it has not been given permission from the government to build the required relay stations, he said.

Mam Sonando is also the president of the Association of Democrats. He urged political parties on the eve of the campaign period, which begins Thursday, to “play clean” and not confuse voters with unachievable promises.

“Nowadays, I’ve observed that politicians have a tendency to give faulty promises to voters,” he said. “They employ empty promises and threats. Those who benefit from threatening others continue to do so.”

Mam Sonando did not say which party he would support in the election, despite some speculation during his months in prison. However, he said he would not be able to support the ruling Cambodian People’s Party until it was able to give clear answers on its positions on border issues and immigration.

He also dismissed threats by Prime Minister Hun Sen that the country would devolve into war if the ruling party doesn’t win the election.

“If someone loses an election and wages a war, that person would be a traitor and would be outlawed,” he said. “No one would support such a person, not their own people and not the international community.”