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Repression Increasing Chance of ‘Bursting’: Beehive Radio

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

The space for free expression in Cambodia is shrinking, a prominent radio director says, leading to increased discontent among the general public.

In an interview with VOA Khmer, Mam Sonando, director of the independent Beehive radio station, said it has become harder to gain listeners, as some people have become too intimidated to listen to his station.

“I find it hard to express my opinion,” he said last week. “And some authorities don’t allow people to listen to Beehive.”

Threats occur both in Phnom Penh and the rural areas, he said, because the programs he broadcasts come from civil society and political parties, on issues ranging from human rights to democracy.

The government has meanwhile refused to grant him a TV license or to have relay stations, he said.

“This is a violation of the people’s rights,” he said. “I have a broadcasting station too, but I have no right to broadcast as much as what the people want.”

He is also forbidden to air some issues, he said.

“Our freedom is restricted to not criticizing the government and on sensitive issues like the borders or any subject that affects the policy of the ruling party,” he said.

In its annual human rights report, the US State Department said recently the government had contributed to restricted freedoms of speech and press through criminal defamation and disinformation lawsuits.

Despite this, Mom Sonando said he continues to do his work.

“As for me I respect the law, and I’ll do whatever I see as beneficial for my country and people,” he said. “My radio station has to bring the truth. I’m not only educating ordinary people, but government officials who violate those rights.”

The repression of rights led to this year’s uprisings in the Arab world and can contribute to revolutions, he said.

“I think there will be a serious bursting of something, and that is the thing I don’t ask for in the future,” he said.