Press Release / Oct. 1, 2012

Lengthy jail sentence for Cambodian activist highlights worsening state repression amidst land grab crisis

Interactive map: watch Cambodia's land grab crisis worsening over time

The sentencing of Cambodian activist Mom Sonando to 20 years in prison for supposedly masterminding a rebellion is the latest example of government repression of those who speak out against the land grabbing crisis currently gripping Cambodia.

70 year old broadcaster and land rights campaigner Sonando, a long-time critic of Cambodian Prime Minster Hun Sen, was convicted alongside 13 others of inciting villagers to rebel against the government in eastern Kratie province. These villagers were involved in a land dispute with the authorities and faced eviction to make way for a rubber plantation. Sonando was found guilty of helping the villagers create a ‘secessionist movement’, but no evidence was produced to support these claims in court.

In May 2012, a 14 year old girl from the same community was shot and killed by military police in one of the worst examples of the escalating repression and violence against ordinary citizens in Cambodia.

“Mom Sonando was one of the few remaining journalists willing to tell the truth about what’s going in Cambodia – a state-sponsored land grab that has seen an area the size of Wales taken from small farmers by agricultural companies in just four years,” said Josie Cohen, campaigner at Global Witness. “The country’s international donors must condemn this sentence and demand the Government ends its systematic silencing of anyone who dares to speak up for the thousands who have been forced off their land.”

Since 2008, 2 million hectares of Cambodia’s land has been transferred to industrial agricultural companies, with most of it taken from small-scale farmers. The communities affected have rarely been consulted or compensated. In 2012, violence against activists has significantly escalated, with prominent environmental campaigner Chut Wutty and reporter Hang Serei Oudom amongst those murdered.


Contact: Oliver Courtney, [email protected] , +44 7912 517 147.