Messages of hope sent to jailed Cambodian journalist Mam Sonando
UPDATE: Mam Sonando was released on 15 March after an appeal. Thank you for your support! See a photo gallery here of his release.
The Cambodian Center for Human Rights, will read all messages over the radio in March for decision-makers to hear. They will also print and personally deliver the postcards to Mr. Sonando in prison.
Your message will go a long way in giving Mr. Sonando the moral support and strength needed to endure this unjust situation and demonstrate to the authorities the public's condemnation of the sentence.
"Even though I am incarcerated, in my heart I am free... I have done nothing wrong, therefore I will not hide."
-Expressed by Mam Sonando from prison. Background:
On 1 October 2012, Mr. Sonando, who is 71 years old, was found guilty of instigating an insurrection and incitement to take up arms against the Cambodian state. Due to the lack of concrete evidence to merit such a conviction, the guilty verdict has been widely criticised both nationally and internationally as political.
Despite Mr. Sonando's deteriorating health and advanced years, on 14 December 2012 the Appeal Court in Phnom Penh denied him bail on the grounds that his temporary release, even under house arrest, would threaten social order, would be unacceptable due to the seriousness of the case and the length of the sentence, and would put the witnesses who testified against him in danger of harassment.
Mr. Sonando's arrest and subsequent conviction are believed to be linked to a broadcast made on Beehive radio on 25 June 2012, about a complaint brought to the International Criminal Court accusing the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) of crimes against humanity. The Prime Minister called for his arrest the following day, highlighting the political motivation behind the case, which is yet another attempt by the RGC to intimidate human rights defenders and to stifle free speech. Mr. Sonando was subsequently arrested on 15 July 2012 on accusation of leading an alleged "secession" movement in Kratie province.
The Kratie province matter involves a long-running dispute over 15,000 hectares (approx. 37,000 acres) of land farmed by villagers, that was granted to a private company. On 16 May 2012, hundreds of armed police and military police stormed a village, in an effort to evict around 1,000 families living in the concession area. Villagers refused to move from their land and the authorities opened fire, causing the death of a 14-year-old girl.