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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.

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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.

The government has cancelled plans to create a state-controlled hub for internet traffic, according to the Post. The idea was to direct all international internet traffic through Telecom Cambodia, which would be charge other operators a transmission fee. According to the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, the proposal is dead for now, though new licensing requirements might be developed in the future. For more background, see our previous post.

In the last few weeks there have been a handful of press reports of proposed changes to the Cambodian internet infrastructure. Presently, intra-country traffic – for example browsing a website on a Cambodian server from within Cambodia – passes through one of two Internet Exchange Points (IXPs). Keeping the data transmission within the country saves on expensive foreign bandwidth and increases speeds. The IXPs are currently privately run, but there’s talk of the government running a single IXP for the whole country. This raises concerns of censorship and price increases. At this stage it seems the proposals are still being debated, and it remains to be seen how it will play out.
Norbert Klein over at The Mirror provides an excellent overview of the background. Norbert’s been deeply involved since the beginning of the internet in Cambodia, and so knows what he’s talking about. He writes:

The discussion will continue. But it is now a discussion, where different persons in different high public position have different opinions, and share them publicly.

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The work of a handful of attorneys at BNG Legal, this blog's mission is to keep the world up-to-date on legal issues in the Kingdom of Cambodia.

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