Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Mam Sonando regains Beehive presidency

Mam Sonando regains Beehive presidency

Veteran radio host Mam Sonando greets thousands of CNRP supporters at Freedom Park in July 2013.
Veteran radio host Mam Sonando greets thousands of CNRP supporters at Freedom Park in July 2013. Charlotte Pert

Mam Sonando regains Beehive presidency

Outspoken radio host Mam Sonando is once again at the helm of the Beehive Social Democratic Party, after he was voted back in as president at the party’s congress on Sunday.

Sonando resigned from leadership in August after Beehive’s poor showing in the June commune elections but said the forced dissolution in October of the main opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, gave him an opportunity to compete.

“I really positively believe in joining the upcoming elections, and if we have success or not, it depends on the residents. But I just want to make sure that people are understanding the current political situation,” he said.

“After the CNRP was dissolved, people are aware of it and they’ll support the Beehive party, as they only have one path.”

But in an email, former CNRP President Sam Rainsy challenged Sonando’s willingness to fill the political void.

“Nothing can replace the CNRP as the only viable opposition party, the only real and popular democratic force feared by Hun Sen,” he said.

Without the participation of the CNRP in an “honest election”, he said, the 2018 poll would be nothing more than “a theatrical show”.

Legal uncertainty could also cloud Sonando’s leadership. New amendments to the Law on Political Parties rushed through parliament last year mean that people with criminal convictions cannot hold senior leadership positions within political parties, unless they have received a royal pardon or their sentences were suspended. It is unclear from the law’s language, however, if the sentence must have been suspended at the time of the conviction.

Sonando was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2012 on charges of “incitement” and of fomenting a secessionist plot. After international outcry, his sentence was reduced after eight months and suspended.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said he was unsure if Sonando would be able to keep his position. “I have not yet received a report,” he said. “Let our lawyers verify it.”

Ruling CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said Cambodia was indeed a “multiparty democracy” as 35 political parties were registered at the Interior Ministry.

“If grandfather Sonando wants to join the political stage, it is his right,” Eysan said. “It shows democracy. We are not narrow-minded.”

Asked about Sonando’s prior conviction, Eysan incorrectly claimed he had been pardoned by the King and said “raising the old case, it is not correct”.

Additional reporting by Ben Sokhean

MOST VIEWED

  • Siem Reap drain canal now ‘mangrove’ promenade

    A more than half a kilometre long stretch of canal in Siem Reap has been covered and turned into a promenade to attract visitors, said Ly Rasmey, secretary of state at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, on September 16. The new pedestrianised

  • Typhoon Noru brings flash floods – 16 dead

    An official warned that that the 16th typhoon of the season, Noru, had brought heavy rains to areas the Mekong River and flooded thousands of homes in the provinces bordering Thailand. As of September 27, the death toll from the flooding had risen to 16. National Committee

  • Angkor wildlife, aquarium park still to open October

    The Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium complex about 30km southeast of Siem Reap town with initial total investment of more than $70 million is reportedly still on track for an end-October opening. The park is located on a 100ha plot along National Road 6 in Kbon village, Khchas

  • Final verdicts for Khmer Rouge leaders ‘vital’ for next generation

    Nearly a decade after the commencement of Case 002/02 against Khieu Samphan back in 2014, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) is now set to deliver its final verdict for the former Khmer Rouge head of state. The Supreme Court Chamber of the ECCC,

  • Defence minister reaffirms Kingdom’s staunch support for One-China policy

    Minister of National Defence General Tea Banh has reaffirmed Cambodia’s unwavering support for the One-China policy. Tea Banh was speaking at the September 20 ceremonial handover of 117 vehicles and other military equipment donated by China’s defence ministry, held at Phnom Chumreay International Military Training

  • Deaths due to ‘lifestyle’ diseases rise in Kingdom

    The Ministry of Health has called on people to pay closer attention to their health to protect themselves from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) which it said have caused high rates of deaths in the country. Ministry secretary of state York Sambath made the call at a