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The Cambodian government seems to have had enough of false information on the internet. It is drafting a law that will make it illegal to lie on the internet. The Phnom Penh Post reports that the “cyber law” will “prevent “ill-willed groups or individuals’ from spreading false information” (Story here). Much of the details about the law are still unclear.
Does a writer need to know the information is false? Does he have to intend to cause harm through the false information? Also, the consequences of a violation are unknown- are we talking fines or jail time? It’s curious that the Cambodian government would be considering such a law now since neighboring Thailand has had problems with speech issues recently with the “Uncle SMS” scandal. (Story here). There, a man was not fined, but put in jail for allegedly sending an insulting text message about the Thai king. The man claimed he didn’t even know how to text, and has since died in prison.
False speech is a problem that every government will need to address at some point or another. Just recently, the United States Supreme Court heard a case about a man who was fined for lying about receiving the Medal of Honor, the country’s highest military medal, when he had never even been in the military. (story here). The court needs to decide whether the Constitution allows for such blatant lies. Apparently, no one in the room even believed the man.
It will be interesting to see how the Cambodian government deals with this difficult issue. We will just have to wait to see what this cyber-law actually looks like.
As reported by the Phnom Penhh Post, The United Kingdom Trade and Investment Office (UKTI) has announced it will establish a permanent presence in Cambodia. This seems to be a natural progression as trade between the UK and Cambodia has grown significantly over the past few years, and the UK was the single largest investor in Cambodia in 2011. While the UK’s superlative investment of $2.2 billion last year may have been seen an anomaly, the establishment of this office may portend otherwise. UKTI, through offering expertise and contacts, aims to aid UK companies doing business internationally.
Cambodia has been positioning itself for stories like this through reforming and integrating its laws (Legal and Judicial Reform) and participating in international organizations: WTO, ASEAN, etc. The Council for the Development for Cambodia (CDC) and the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) regulate investment in Cambodia. An overview of the CDC approval process can be found here. A more detailed account of doing business in Cambodia from banking to mining can be found here. Clear processes and quick decisions from the government can be welcome indicators for a company considering taking on a big risk in another country.
Special Economic Zones (SEZs) continue to be something to watch in this area. China’s Shenzen has demonstrated the power of a legal island of commerce. Cambodia has approved 21 SEZs, though not all have seen activity. Tax incentives, a streamlined regulatory process and factory integration can be big draws for a foreign company. More on SEZs here.
The Royal Government has just announced a temporary freeze on new economic land concessions. Economic land concessions have become hugely controversial in recent years, with incidences of forced evictions, land grabs and illegal logging in forest reserves. Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday issued an order temporarily suspending new concessions, and calling for revocation of concessions found to be in breach of the law. According to Radio Free Asia’s report, the decree reads in part:
The government has issued this order to all ministries, institutions, and authorities, at all levels to implement: Temporarily suspend the leasing of land concessions… All ministries, institutions, and authorities must implement the government’s policy regarding land concessions, and they must ensure that land concessions don’t affect communal land or the daily life of the community… Authorities must ensure that land concessions will benefit the country and the people. Those companies that have already received licenses from the government, but have failed to honor their contracts by cutting down the forest instead of developing their concessions, encroached on the land of the people, operated businesses other than for the license granted, abused villagers, or abused communal land will have their contracts revoked.
Today’s Cambodia Daily (offline only, see Gov’t to Stop Licensing New Mobile Carriers) reports that the Ministry of Post & Telecommunication will no longer issue mobile phone operator licenses. It’s generally recognized that the Cambodian cell phone market is oversaturated, with too many operators vying for too few customers, resulting in losses or razor-thin margins at best. Further, there’s very little spectrum, if any, that has not yet been allocated; and, in fact, there have been instances of overlapping licenses issued for the same spectrum. While there has been substantial talk recently about consolidation, no announcements have been made.
The Daily article simply quotes the Minister as saying that no further licenses will be issued. It is unclear whether there has been, or will be, a regulation or circular issued on point, nor whether the moratorium is indefinite or set to expire by a certain date.