Amnesty International Starts Petition for Sonando

Amnesty International on Thurs­day issued a call to action, urging people to appeal to Prime Minister Hun Sen and other high-ranking government officials for the release of jailed radio station owner Mam Sonando ahead of his retrial next month. 

Mr. Sonando, 71, was imprisoned for 20 years on October 1 for his alleged involvement in an in­surrectionist movement in Kratie province.

The Phnom Penh Mu­nicipal Court verdict was met with widespread condemnation, in­cluding from Washington, and Mr. So­nando’s appeal date has been set for March 5.

In the “urgent action,” as Am­nesty International called it, people are asked to write to Mr. Hun Sen, Interior Minister Sar Kheng and Foreign Minister Hor Nam­hong, “Demanding the immediate and unconditional release of Mam Sonando, who is a prisoner of conscience, and that his conviction is overturned.”

The “prisoner of conscience” ap­peal also urges participants to call on the authorities to “protect, respect and promote the right to freedom of expression in Cambo­dia.”

Council of Ministers spokes­man Phay Siphan dismissed the Am­nesty appeal, reiterating a long-held position that Cambodia is a sovereign state and, as a re­sult, would not bow to international pressure.

“They should leave Cambodia by itself; don’t urge Cambodia to do what it’s supposed to do,” Mr. Si­phan said.

“It’s Cambodian sovereignty and an internal issue…. It belongs to the affairs of the court,” he added.

Another well known Amnesty In­ternational prisoner of conscience was Burma’s pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, who was awarded the status from 1989 to 1995, from 2000 to 2002, and from 2003 to 2010 while im­prisoned under house arrest in Rangoon by the military junta.

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