More than 20 police officers arrested Sonando, owner, director, and political commentator of the independent broadcaster Beehive Radio, at his home in Phnom Penh. The journalist was charged with orchestrating an insurrection in Kratie province, where villagers had clashed with security forces over a land dispute with a private Russian company in May, news reports said.
On October 1, Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Sonando of inciting a rebellion and sentenced him to 20 years. Another alleged plotter, Bun Ratha, was sentenced in absentia to 30 years in prison, while three others were handed sentences ranging from 10 months to three years. Sonando, who holds both Cambodian and French citizenship, maintained his innocence during the trial and appealed the verdict, according to news reports.
Local and international rights groups said they believed Sonando’s imprisonment was motivated by his station’s critical coverage of the government. On June 25, Sonando reported on a local dissident group’s presentation to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in the Hague. The group accused the Cambodian government of crimes against humanity. In a nationally broadcast speech the next day, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Sonando should be arrested for plotting to “overthrow the government” and establishing “a state within a state.” A day later, a warrant was issued for the journalist’s arrest.
This was the third time Sonando had been imprisoned for his reporting. He was jailed in 2003 and 2005 on anti-state charges related to his news coverage.