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LICADHO welcomes the release of Mam Sonando

LICADHO, one of Diakonia's most prominent partner organizations in Cambodia, has together with ten other organizations issued a press release where they welcome the release of radio station owner Mam Sonando. But they also warn about the frail Cambodian democracy, and the humanitarian crimes in Cambodia.


Arrested for secession

In July of 2012, Mam Sonando was arrested under the accusation of master-minding a secession plot from the village of Kratie. However, the reality was that the village were involved in a land conflict, with Sonando voicing their needs.

Mam Sonando's release

Sonando, who apart from being a radio station owner also heads the NGO Association of Democrats, was convicted in October 2012 of leading the secession plot against the Cambodian government and sentenced to 20 years. The sentence was however changed, much due to the odd request that the leading prosecutor made during the appeal hearing, to five years. Since Sonando had served eight months already, the rest of the punishment got suspended, says the press release from LICADHO.

Freedom of speech threatened

While Sonando was formally accused of masterminding the secession, many believe that the warrant was actually made because of a broadcast Sonando made about the Cambodian government. In the broadcast, he presented a report that accused government officials of crimes against humanity regarding Cambodia's land conflicts.

The organizations behind the press release, including LICADHO, sees the situation as difficult, and Vorn Pao of the organization IDEA describes the situation as following:

"The release of Mam Sonando and his co defendants is an important step toward rehabilitating Cambodia’s democracy, but the international community should note that the leader of the opposition party remains in exile."