BBG Governor Victor Ashe met with broadcasters, human rights activists, U.S. officials and a jailed radio station chief during a recent visit to Cambodia.
Ashe, who serves as Vice Chairman of the board of Radio Free Asia (RFA), spent two and a half fully-packed working days in Cambodia, during which he met with broadcasters from RFA and Voice of America (VOA). He also met with William Todd, the U.S. ambassador to Cambodia, and paid a visit to jailed Cambodian radio station chief Mam Sonando at a prison outside Phnom Penh.
Under rules set by Cambodia’s Interior Ministry, Ashe was not allowed to record his meeting with Sonando, and interviews for broadcasting purposes were not allowed. He was, however, permitted to spend more than 30 minutes with Sonando and discuss his health problems. A prison guard was present at all times, but did not interrupt the meeting.
Sonando, who was sentenced last October to 20 years in prison, has denied charges that he orchestrated a takeover by villagers of disputed land and that he encouraged a secessionist movement. He runs one of the few independent radio stations in Cambodia.
Diplomats and rights activists say that Sonando was jailed because of his relentless criticism of the Cambodian government.
Ashe visited both the RFA and VOA offices in Phnom Penh and was briefed on their operations in Cambodia.
At RFA, he engaged in a lively session with broadcasters, who peppered him with questions. Several broadcasters came to the meeting from the provinces, including one who drove eight hours from remote Rattanakiri Province.
Ashe also traveled to the outskirts of Phnom Penh to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) to get an update on efforts to bring to trial senior Khmer Rouge leaders.