July 23, 2012
The Honorable Hilary Rodham Clinton
U.S. Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Madam Secretary:
I am writing to you with urgency and earnestness with regard to the recent arrest of Mr. Mam Sonando that took place July 15, 2012, in Phnom Penh, shortly after your departure from Cambodia.
I am the President of Khmer People Power Movement (KPPM), a grassroots organization of Cambodians that seeks to bring long-denied principals of real democracy to the nation of Cambodia.
We condemn the arrest of Mr. Mam Sonando, owner of Radio FM 105 MHz (Beehive Radio), on Sunday July 15, 2012. We ask the American people for their intervention in pressuring the Cambodia Government to release Mr. Mam and drop all charges against him.
Mr. Mam is also the President of the Association of Democrats, a Cambodian organization aligned with KPPM in seeking democratic reforms in Cambodia. His project Beehive Radio provides uncensored news to Cambodians worldwide, as well as rebroadcasts of Voice of America programing in Cambodia. By all unbiased accounts, Mr. Mam Sonando is a trustful, balanced journalist providing accurate information to the people of Cambodia.
On June 22 2012, Mr. Mam Sonando was in the Hague, the Netherlands, to cover the presentation of a communication to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) containing allegations of crimes against humanity committed by the Cambodian government. The communication was submitted by the Khmer People Power Movement (KPPM), which is headed by me (Sourn Serey Ratha).
On June 22, the ICC acknowledged in writing the receipt of KPPM’s communication. Mr. Mam Sonando’s report on KPPM’s communication to the ICC was broadcast by Beehive station on June 25. A day later, on June 26, Prime Minister Hun Sen urged in a nationally broadcasted public speech that Mr. Mam Sonando be arrested for masterminding “a plot to overthrow the government and attempting to establish a state within a state”. No evidence has been presented to substantiate this claim.
On June 25, 2012, Mr. Mam Sonando broadcast a report from The Hague about KPPM’s request that the International Criminal Court (ICC) begin an investigation into the forced movement of what we believe to be over a hundred thousand Cambodians, from land that they have legal title to. Evidence indicates that members of the Cambodian government are personally profiting from the use and sale of the land that is being taken.
This “land grabbing,” if proven, may well be a crime against humanity under Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court – a statute that Cambodia has agreed to abide by.
The broadcast for which Mr. Mam Sonando has been imprisoned included interviews and discussed KPPM’s request for an ICC investigation of this forced deportation.
The current Cambodian government does not have an unblemished record with regard to human rights. Recent information about the forced deportations includes credible reports of beatings, unjustified imprisonment, and killings of individuals who question, or legally resist, the deportations.
On July 15, 2012 at 8:56 AM, Hun Sen’s government arrested Mr. Mam Sonando, shortly after he had returned to Cambodia from Europe on July 13, 2012. Mr. Mam has been charged with “sedition” for simply reporting the fact that our organization has asked the ICC to investigate the Cambodian government’s actions.
We fear that Mr. Man Sonando will suffer mistreatment that might cost him his life. He is over seventy years of age. It is clearly an injustice that the Cambodian government has placed Mr. Mam Sonando in jail. We urge you to tell Cambodia that if it wants to improve relations with the international community, including (and especially) the U.S.A., it cannot continue to mistreat its own people.
The Cambodian government can start by respecting freedom of press – and stop mistreating its journalists.
Khmer People Power Movement (KPPM) urges the U.S State Department to intervene by all possible means to drop all charges against Mam Sonando and release him immediately and without conditions . We hope you will take our concern to heart and seek to free Mr. Mam Sonando, and to protect journalists’ rights from human rights abuses at the hands of Cambodia’s current government officials.
Thank you for your leadership, and your support of Cambodia’s freedom of press.
Sourn, Serey Ratha
President of KPPM
235 92nd St SW
Everett, WA 98204
KPPM protects and promotes people power. We believe that all human beings are entitled to freedom of self-determination, freedom from tyranny, and the rights to speak freely, to associate with those of like mind, and to leave and enter their countries. Individuals in a free society must be accorded equal treatment and due process under law, and must have the opportunity to participate in the people action.