Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM) are concerned about online freedom in Cambodia as the Minister of Telecommunications, So Khun, signed a circular on November 16th, 2012, to regulate the use of Internet in the country.
According to the decree issued by the ministry, Internet cafes cannot be located within 500 meters of a school or allow their clients to gamble, porn surf, visit websites selling drugs or commit crimes that threaten national security or “traditions”. The Minister of Telecommunications also stated that “students can learn new technology as long as [it] is legal”.
“The lack of definition of the notions of “entertaining website”, “game” or “traditions”, leaves a wide interpretation of the decision if applied. This is a step towards a tighter control of the Net in Cambodia”, said Christophe Deloire, RSF’s Secretary-General and Pa Nguon Teang, CCIM’s Director. “It is a decree, meaning that there is a will to impose a decision to Cambodian citizens on their use of the Internet. We have seen this happening in neighboring countries such as Vietnam and Burma and are very concerned about Cambodia ignoring its international human rights obligations. We are therefore encouraging the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Cambodia to investigate further the situation during his stay in the country ”, they continued.
The news was published by local media on Friday, December 7th before Dr. Subedi, the United-Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Cambodia arrived in the country where he will stay until December 15th. It is its eighth mission in the Kingdom since he took office in 2009.
The year 2012 is known to have been bad in terms of human rights violations in Cambodia. On December 9th, the local NGO Licadho published a report in which it states “Recent threats and attacks against HRDs have been overwhelmingly targeted at four main groups: community representatives entangled in land disputes; factory workers and union leaders; NGOs and NGO staff; and journalists”. Pa Nguon Teang insisted that Cambodian authorities are aggressively closing all means for freedoms of expression in the country.” If this decree is applied, it will help the government to introduce a law to control the internet use”, he concluded.
In February 2012, a decree had already been imposed on Internet and telephone service providers to install surveillance cameras in order to “promote protection of national security, safety and social order for the country”.