When last we left Cambodian dissident Mam Sonando back in March, he was on the verge of being released from prison, following a twenty year sentence for “leading an insurrection” which was then dropped to a minor charge. Not long after his liberation, Sonando applied a license to expand the reach of his “Beehive” radio station nationwide via a series of translators. It is currently situated in Phnom Penh and broadcasts at 105 FM.
No way, the government has responded. Cambodia’s Minister of Information says that there are “no remaining frequencies” to fulfill the request. Perhaps that is true. Perhaps the fact that Sonando’s outlet protests the huge timber land grabs being orchestrated by relatives of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and other top government officials has something to do with it (also, Beehive runs Voice of America, probably another negative).
The Phnom Penh Post also reports the government saying that Sonando owes millions of riel, Cambodia’s currency. From the Post article:
“His strategy is to borrow more money.… His radio [operation] owes the ministry hundreds of millions of riel,” [Information Minister Khieu] Kanarith said, adding that the money supposedly owed was tax for broadcasting.
Sonando, however, said no such law exists.
“How can I pay a broadcasting tax of 3 million riel per month if there is no law? I absolutely won’t,” he said. “[Kanharith] says I owe hundreds of millions of riel. If so, why does he not file a legal complaint?”
VoA reports that Sonando’s supporters will begin demonstrating for the expansion later this month.