Amnesty International has declared Mam Sonando of Beehive Radio and Rong Chhun of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association prisoners of conscience, and urged the public to appeal to Cambodian authorities for their immediate and unconditional release.
In a statement received Thursday, the London-based rights group also asked the public to urge the government to withdraw criminal complaints against four additional border critics: Chea Mony, Free Trade Union president, Ear Channa, deputy secretary general of the Student Movement for Democracy, Man Nath, president of the Cambodian Independent Civil Servants Association, and Prince Sisowath Thomico, special secretary to retired King Norodom Sihanouk.
Amnesty asked for public appeals to be sent to Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith, and requested people to call on the government “to state publicly that all Cambodians have the right to freedom of opinion and expression without fear of harassment or imprisonment.”
Amnesty said the October arrests of Rong Chhun and Mam Sonando were marred by irregularities, adding that proper arrest warrants were not produced and that the incitement charge against Rong Chhun does not stipulate what crime under Cambodian law he had allegedly incited.
Amnesty was also highly critical of the seven-year sentence meted out to opposition party member Cheam Channy in August for forming a so-called illegal armed force.
“This apparent hijacking of the judiciary by the executive branch is coupled with violence and threats against those who work to protect and defend the law and victims of abuse, including by criticizing the inaction or failings of those in authority,” Amnesty said.
Khieu Kanharith could not be contacted Friday, but he has previously said the government needs to react to people who accuse Hun Sen of selling land to Vietnam, as such behavior could topple the government.
He has also criticized Mam Sonando for failing to get a response from the government before airing the interview that led to his incarceration.
Om Yentieng, an adviser to Prime Minister Hun and head of the government’s human rights committee, could not be reached.