Back in July I reported on the arrest of Beehive Radio owner and political activist, Mam Sonando. In an absurd abuse of legal process, Sonando was charged with participating in an insurrection and inciting armed rebellion following his public support of villagers protesting their eviction from land the Cambodian government has awarded to a Russian company, Casotim. In May, the government’s attempt to forcibly remove the villagers led to the fatal shooting of an unarmed 14 year old girl. Rather than investigating the girl’s death or issuing an apology, the government chose to double down on its repressive tactics, characterizing the protests as a secession attempt and accusing critics of the crackdown of instigating a rebellion.
Yesterday, Judge Chaing Sinat of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court handed down a 20 year sentence in Sonando’s case, prompting outcry from local NGOs, international organizations, and donor governments, and demonstrating once again the dismaying complicity of Cambodia’s judiciary in the abuses of the Hun Sen regime.