Popular radio personality Mom Sonando wants to dissolve his Sambok Kmoum (Beehive) Democratic Society Party because of alleged political intimidation—but his own party members are resisting.
Mom Sonando, who is often critical of the government, had decided to disband his party because his members said they were being intimidated by local government officials loyal to the ruling CPP.
But at the party’s annual congress Thursday, 80 of the 130 Beehive council members present opposed Mom Sonando’s initiative and asked their leader to continue the party’s work. The party will hold a second congress soon to discuss the matter.
Mom Sonando, owner of the popular Beehive radio station, said he did not feel bad about wanting to dissolve his party because he cared more about his member’s lives than politics.
“I don’t want my people who have followed me and supported me to be suppressed and threatened,” he said Thursday. “I want to protect my people.”
Khieu Thavika, a government spokesman, said the CPP’s principles do not include intimidation.
“If his party closes, it might be because of a financial problem or an internal issue,” Khieu Thavika said. “If what Mom Sonando says is true, he should name who is doing the intimidation.”
Mom Sonando formally launched the Beehive Party in December 1997. The party fielded 105 candidates in 15 provinces, but garnered only about 14,000 votes nationwide and failed to win a National Assembly seat.
He was forced to close his radio station temporarily in September 1998, after he angered the government by covering a spate of rice-wine poisonings and calling the election results fraudulent. He reopened the station six months later.
Lao Mong Hay, executive director of the Khmer Institute of Democracy, said the dissolving of the Beehive Party could further encourage scare tactics before the commune elections.
“His radio station is very critical of the government,” Lao Mong Hay said. “It’s regrettable that this is happening.”