Sonando Plans Protest After Relay Station, TV Channel Rejected

The Information Ministry has rejected a request by Mam Sonando, the owner of popular Beehive Radio, for a relay station to broadcast deeper into provincial areas and permission to open a TV station.

An assistant to Mr. Sonando said that he had asked the ministry for permission for a relay station and a TV channel on January 2, but received a rejection letter Tuesday.

“We got the answer from the Ministry of Information today [Tuesday] that they don’t have the space” on the frequency spectrum for a relay station or TV Channel, Huon Pannary, Mr. Sonando’s assistant, said Tuesday.

In response to the rejection, Mr. Sonando sent a letter to Phnom Penh Governor Pa Socheatvong seeking permission to stage rallies from January 27 at Freedom Park against the decision.

“People would start gathering at 7 a.m. at Freedom Park, and leave Freedom Park at 8 a.m. and march toward the Ministry of Information until 12 p.m. demanding the Ministry of Information to give permission to Beehive Radio for increased relay in the provinces, as well as additional frequencies to set up a TV channel,” Mr. Sonando wrote in his letter.

Following the government’s violent eviction of peaceful protesters from Freedom Park on January 4, City Hall has banned all marches and meetings at the park “until security and public order is guaranteed.”

That order was followed swiftly by a separate statement from the Ministry of Interior, which said it would be suspending people’s constitutional freedom to assemble in the city “temporarily, until security and order are restored to their normal state.”

City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said Tuesday that he passed Mr. Sonando’s letter to Mr. Socheatvong, but said he could not comment on it.

Asked when exactly the ban on peaceful protest in Phnom Penh would be lifted, Mr. Dimanche said: “We have to wait until the situation goes back to its calmness and normality.”

Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said the suspension of the Constitution, which experts say is illegal, had served a purpose, and had been necessary claiming “the previous demonstrations were about to become riots.”

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