Friday, August 17, 2012

Internet Freedom in Cambodia - A Timeline

The following is a timeline of the development of Internet restrictions/censorship in Cambodia and is meant to serve as a resource for those studying the issue. Also included is some general Cambodia Internet history and milestones in order to provide background and context. I have tried to supply (functioning) links to source articles to facilitate research and provide additional information.

While this timeline traces the development of Internet censorship in Cambodia, in fact, Cambodia has a relatively good record on Internet freedom, far from perfect, but also far from an 'enemy of Internet' like some of her neighbors. It can even be said that Cambodia has some of the freest Internet in the region. Still, over the last three years, that free space has slowly been shrinking, some 'political' websites have been blocked and the government has repeatedly expressed the desire to enact some sort of Internet law or official regulation. It's an issue to watch, especially as we move into a election year when freedom of speech and media access will likely become hotter topics than they already are.*

Notes: I am not a tech guy so I may have used some technical vocabulary imprecisely. Also I realize some of the quoted figures are a matter of debate (e.g. Internet penetration in Cambodia.) I tried to avoid linking to KI Media or Khmerization except when that was the only source I could find for old articles. Both are difficult to use in Cambodia and I don't particularly like KI. If you find an expired link, try Googling the title for other sources. Unfortunately most Cambodia Daily articles are not available online. Lastly, the recent CCHR report, 'New Media and the Promotion of Human Rights in Cambodia,' is an excellent resource, providing a concise and well referenced history of Internet restrictions in Cambodia.

The Beginning of Internet in Cambodia

Early 90s. After more than two decades of war an isolation, Cambodia opens to the world with the UN sponsored elections of 1993. Low level war with the Khmer Rouge continues. The country, including the capital city Phnom Penh, lack many basic services. E-mail and the World Wide Web are relatively new even in the west and Cambodia has never had access. This changed in 1994 with Cambodia's first e-mail access and much more concretely in 1997 when Cambodia established its first direct internet connection. For the first several years of  Internet in Cambodia, it was very slow and expensive, Internet penetration was very low and content regulation, or even the suggestion of it, was non-existent. The following are just a few of the highlights to provide background and context. 

Despite Cambodia’s lack of direct Internet access, Norbert Klein offers Cambodia’s first public e-mail service though Open Forum for Cambodia, connecting to a modem outside Cambodia by long-distance telephone from Phnom Penh . Price, US$5/minute
The Evolution of Internet, The Phnom Penh Post  
The Influence of the Internet on Cambodia Khmer Internet: A Case Study 

The effort to bring Internet to Cambodia gains steam. The government conducts talks and negotiations with several telecommunications providers.
Internet Link May Finally Connect Cambodia to the World, The Cambodia Daily, February 12, 1996  
Internet May Soon Come to Cambodia, But at What Price?, The Cambodia Daily, March 18, 1996
Japanese Initiative May Wire Phnom Penh for Free Internet, The Cambodia Daily, June 10, 1996 

Early 1997
A partnership is formed between the Canada’s International Development Research Center (IDRC,) facilitated by Bill Herod, and the Ministry of Post and Telecommunication’s (MPTC) ISP known as Camnet. Through this partnership, plans are finalized for Cambodia to open its first direct Internet connection.  
Cambodia Poised to Link Up to Internet, Deutsche Presse Agentur (pre-edit) April 1997  
Khmer Internet: A Case Study

May 7,  1997
Cambodia is connected. The first direct 24/7 Internet connection is opened by Camnet – a 64kbps line with Singapore.  
Internet Provider Now On-Line, The Cambodia Daily, May 7, 1997  

June 1, 1997
Australia’s Telstra launches Telstra Bigpond Cambodia, Cambodia’s first commercial ISP. Price, US$0.15/kb (~150 characters) (Several year later Cogitel Ltd. acquires Telstra Bigpond and changes the name to Online [now under AZ Communications Co., Ltd,] which is still in operation today. - August 2012.)

Late 1997-1998
Bill Herod is instrumental in establishing Licee Khmer and later KIDS (Khmer Internet Development Services,) offering public internet and website services.

Internet penetration is estimated at 1,957.
UN Data

Internet cafes and shops proliferate in Phnom Penh. There is internet access in many Cambodian cities, though often limited to one or two internet/phone shops in non-tourist cities.

Internet penetration is estimated at 5,853.  
UN Data

June 2001
Internet penetration is estimated at 8000 users.
Khmer Internet: A Case Study
Internet penetration is estimated at 9,738.
UN Data

Internet penetration is estimated at 29,157.
UN Data

Early 2003
A partnership between Asia Foundation, (with funds from USAID and Microsoft) establishes a network of Community Information Centers (CIC) with public Internet access and training in 22 provinces.

Internet penetration is estimated at 33,937.  
UN Data

Internet penetration is estimated at 39,639.
UN Data

January 2005
The first Khmer Unicode is released allowing Khmer script to be used and displayed on Internet.

Internet penetration is estimated at 42,386.  
UN Data

Prelude- Setting the stage
In the mid-late '00s internet penetration continued to rise, the websites that would later be banned were first established and the Cambodian government expressed its first concerns about internet content and a desire to limit it. These first concerns, at least those stated, were over "pornography and debauchery." Unlike later efforts to control internet, this plan wasn't to block websites but to limit internet access by banning 3G.

July 2005
KI Media (Khmer Intelligence) website is launched, leans strongly anti-ruling party and is highly critical of the RGC and government officials. The website is based outside Cambodia.

June 2006
Expressing concerns regarding pornography and debauchery on Internet and citing the need to protect the morality of the country, the Prime Minister announces a 10-year ban on 3G. The announcement to ban 3G is met with shock, incredulity and bemusement by the industry. Within days the government backpedals and alters the ban to 3G video streaming only.
Cambodia Ban on 3G Astounds Phone Industry  
Cambodia Bans 3G Mobile Services  
Porn fear sparks Cambodia 3G ban 

Internet penetration is estimated at 63,303.  
UN Data

Internet penetration is estimated at 70,000 users.
Cambodia Artists take on Internet Censorship
Internet penetration is estimated at 66,982.
UN Data

October 11, 2007
Khmerization website is launched, leans strongly anti-ruling party and is highly critical of the RGC. The website is based outside Cambodia.  
Why I Created This Blog?

2008 goes online, displaying Rick Lor's controversial "sexy apsara" art. The website is based outside of Cambodia.

Internet penetration is estimated at 70,495.
UN Data

First Blocked Website – Art

Citing the dignity of women and the protection of Khmer culture, the Cambodian government calls for the first website ban - with its R-rated 'sexy apsara' art. Both the concern and the request for the ban by the government are clearly and publicly stated. Some bloggers and opposition party politicians express opposition, but public opposition to the ban seems weak. Many seem persuaded by the threat to culture and dignity with even some prominent artists and an HR advocate voicing support for the ban. The ban is requested by the government, enacted by the ISPs (not by government controlled filtering/blocking,) stays in place for a good long while, and in the future is repeatedly cited as a precedent in other moves to regulate internet and/or its content. The government speaks for the first time of drafting an Internet law aimed at controlling content. A week after is blocked, a Global Witness report is also blocked.

Early December 2008
The Minister of Women’s Affairs complains of offensive images on the website, which displays the art of Cambodian-American artist Rick Lor, known as Reahu. Reahu's art includes images of topless Khmer women in traditional Cambodian clothing and settings and of scantily clad Khmer Rouge soldiers.
‘Owner of Controversial Website Claims Gov’t Blocked Access’, The Cambodia Daily, February 2, 2009

December 18,  2008
Cambodian government criticisms come into focus and plans for the country’s first website ban are put into motion. Citing potential negative effects on Cambodian culture and danger to the dignity of Cambodian women, the Ministry of Women's Affairs issues a statement that the Ministry is preparing to block access to 

The Ministry of Women's Affairs claims that 70%-80% of Cambodian women offended by such images.

Lending some weight to the Ministry’s claim of popular support, a large number of comments left on the site support the government’s plan for a ban. Somewhat surprisingly, some prominent Cambodian artists also express support for the ban as does a the Deputy Director of Communication and Advocacy of LICAHDO, a prominent Cambodian human rights organization, arguing that should be blocked "…because it appealed too much to young Cambodians."
Gov’t officials criticized the half-naked Apsara dancers on Website  
Cambodia: Internet censorship targets artists

December 19, 2008
Reahu defends his art, posting on his website:
I believe in constructive criticisms! But lately, I’ve received many unwanted complaints regarding some of my works disgraced the Khmer culture. Judging from the complaints, I wonder how we as Khmer will be able to make it in the 21st Century. Please be open-minded, you must be able to see beyond the four walls surrounding your hut. So please! My prohook eating brothers and sisters this is art, one mans point of view captured on canvas: An admiration of Apsaras as celestial beings. If this brings down the Khmer culture, then your Khmer culture is still under the Khmer Rouge. So, I take the pleasure of deleting them. A good Khmer Rouge is a naked one."
What People Care About  
Gov’t officials criticized the half-naked Apsara dancers on Website  
Khmer Blue has Purists Seeing Red  
Controversial artist fights back, The Phnom Penh Post

January 7, 2009
Cambodian newspapers report that the Ministry of Information has announced plans to draft law to regulate publications on the internet. A government spokesman cites the website of as prompting the need for new regulation. The reports  cites “advances of new technologies” and the need to “protect the respect of tradition and morality.”

Part of the new rules include the requirement for ISP providers to acquire a license not only from the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications (MPTC) but also the Ministry of Information, which could presumably require them to follow media law.
The Ministry of Information Has the Intention to Regulate Publications on the Internet
Cambodia drafts law to regulate internet strictly

January 8, 2009
The Minister of Information denies that the new law will regulate internet or content. he states that the media law is directed primarily at radio, TV and print media, not at the Internet   

Late January 2009
Internet users report access to is blocked by several domestic ISP providers.

February 2, 2009
Artist Reahu writes on his website that his website has been blocked by several ISPs in Cambodia
Dear Fans and Supporters, The Cambodian government had issue a note of blockage to many internet providers in Cambodia to block this website from the local people. If this kind of basic freedom is deny God knows what will happen next. Anyway, there are approximately 6 ISPs in Cambodia, some had taken the privilege to block the site from Cambodia, but others did not due to the lack of technological know how or it's too costly.

There are ways around this if you are accessing this site from Cambodia. Do not use Internet Explorer, instead use Mozilla Fire Fox. Meanwhile, I'm trying to get my hosting provider to change the IP address. Or any of you know another way, so that we can provide our Khmer people equal access.

May Buddha bless those in charge of the country so they can see that the glass isn't always half empty.
A Minister of the MPTC confirms that a letter requesting the block was sent to the internet providers, but also claimss he did not know what effect the letter may have had. owner claims his website ordered blocked in Cambodia Censorship: Thousands of Crude Porn Sites Accessible on Internet – One Khmer Artist Blocked
Owner of Controversial Website Claims Gov’t Blocked Access’, The Cambodia Daily, February 2, 2009

February  9, 2009
A second important internet block is put in place.

On January 5 Global Witness releases its report ‘Country for Sale,’ which comes under immediate heavy criticism by the RGC. On January 9 one ISP in Cambodia (AngkorNet) blocks access to the Global Witness website. The ISP confirms that the site has been blocked but declines to comment further. The block seems to be short lived. (A similar Global Witness report in 2007 (i.e. 'Cambodia's Family Trees') was also banned by the RGC, but there was no mention or effect on internet.)
NGO website barred in Cambodia for releasing scathing report

February 2009
Images of Reahu’s art begin to appear on several other websites and blogs, in large part due to news of the controversy surrounding the ban on in Cambodia.

March 3, 2009
A secretary of state for the Ministry of Women's Affairs confirms that her office cooperated with the MPTC to have the website blocked as well as "some other websites that show sexy pictures ... such as and… Apsara images like those in the reahu website have a bad effect on our culture. The Aspara is supposed to show women as being gentle, not looking very sexy."
Govt moves raise censorship fears, The Phnom Penh Post

After the block
The block on Reahu’s site lasted at least months, perhaps longer. I checked a few times in the subsequent months but didn’t follow up after that. The block is no longer in place (August 2012.) I am not sure when it was lifted.

July 2009
Citing security concerns, the MPTC tells local ISPs to bar VoIP (Voice-over Internet Protocol) for domestic calling. VoIP is used for services such as Skype. According to government spokesmen the ban is not intended to affect international VoIP. To date (2012), nothing seems to have come of it.
Gov't Cites Security in Local VoIP Ban 

Internet subscribers is estimated at 29,589. 
The Phnom Penh Post

Plans for a state-run Internet hub
The government contemplates formalizing and expanding Internet censorship. The government proposes the formation of a 'morality committee' that would review websites for suitability and ban them as necessary. Government spokesmen suggest that all internet traffic would be funneled through a single state-run hub in order to facilitate controlling content. The plan is eventually dropped, but not necessarily abandoned.

Internet penetration is estimated at 74,083.  
UN Data

October 2009
The MPTC issues a prakas instructing all ISPs to connect to Telecom Cambodia - stipulating “inter‐network connection between all telecommunication operators shall be through a central center of Cambodian Telecommunication”.
State-run Web hub would filter sites, The Phnom Penh Post

February 3, 2010
The undersecretary of the MPTC announces plans to block websites that conflict with national values. An undersecretary of state at MPTC announced plans hold regular ‘morality committee’ meetings to review websites and consider blocking offending sites. The committee would include representatives of the MPTC, Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Women’s Affairs as well as local ISPs.

During the annual conference of the National Committee for Upholding Cambodian Social Morality, Women’s and Khmer Family Value the under secretary stated that “As young Cambodians have access to such technologies, they indulge and commit wrongdoings that deviate from our customs and traditions by accessing and replicating erotic and pornographic pictures over Internet sites.” She also expresses concerns about "modern information technologies" and cited the blocking of the website last year.
Cambodian govt panel to target racy images, The Phnom Penh Post 

February 23, 2010
Telcom Cambodia indicates government plans to have all ISPs’ web traffic funneled through a single, state-run Internet hub – a ‘Domestic Internet Exchange’ managed by Telecom Cambodia. Telecom Cambodia officials state that it is for the purpose of controlling content and block access to sites deemed “inappropriate.” A Telecom Cambodia official states, “If any website attacks the government or any website displays inappropriate images or pornography, or it’s against the principle of the government, we can block all of them.”

In contrast to the MPTC announcement, the Ministry of Information states there is no plan to filter content.
State-run Web hub would filter sites, The Phnom Penh Post 
Cambodian govt panel to target racy images, The Phnom Penh Post 

Feb 26, 2010
The Ministries of Information and MPTC continue to express differences about the degree to which internet content would be filtered by the new central exchange, if at all. The MPTC states that internet would be monitored for "inappropriate content" and blocked as necessary. The Ministry of Information spokesmen repeats that there is no plan to block or filter internet and that it is inappropriate to do so.

April 12, 2010
The MPTC announces that it has dropped plans to funnel web traffic through Telecom Cambodia.
Plans for Internet Monopoly Shelved
Govt axes Internet monopoly plan, The Phnom Penh Post

Interlude – New Penal Code 
A new penal code is enacted, sections of which many observers warn may impact free speech. Shortly thereafter a UN staffer is arrested under the new law for distributing 'seditious' materials he got off of the KI Media website. He is quickly convicted and jailed under the new code, though not under any internet law. One month later KI Media will be blocked by the ISPs at the government's request.

December 1, 2010
Cambodia enacts new penal code which includes several articles which may impact on free speech
Concern Over Liberties as New Penal Code Is Enacted
New Cambodian laws may suppress free speech: rights groups  
New Penal Code a Setback for Freedom of Expression Issues
Relevant provisions in the draft Penal Code that may affect the free speech

December 16, 2010
A high ranking government official complains about KI Media and its attacks on government officials. He ask that it be blocked, stating, “I asked the government to shut down this website on 31 December, soon.”
The government to shut down KI-Media website at the end of December (RFA)

December 17, 2010
Local UN staffer is arrested for disseminating 'anti-government' material that he got from the KI Media website.
UN staffer jailed for ‘anti-government’ materials, The Phnom Penh Post

December 19, 2010
The UN staffer is tried and jailed for disseminating 'anti-government' material he garnered from the KI Media website. He is convicted under the 'Incitement' section of the new penal code.
Cambodia: New Penal Code Undercuts Free Speech 

Internet subscribers is estimated at 173,675.
The Phnom Penh Post

Internet penetration is estimated at 178,142.
UN Data

The Blogspot Fiasco: Goodbye KI

Cambodia stumbles into the world of political Internet censorship, quietly blocking politically related sites (including KI Media and Khmerization) with all the subtlety of a three-legged elephant stumbling through the living room. Unlike the block, neither the government nor the ISPs want to own this one, both initially offering confused explanations and denials. Shortly thereafter the media (The Phnom Penh Post and The Cambodia Daily) acquire documents that show what probably happened was that the government made a strong request to block the websites and most ISPs accommodated, if a rather clumsily. Again, the government cited pornography, protection of Khmer tradition and morality, as well as Internet that "affects government." The block holds firmly to this day (August 2012.)

Early January 19, 2011
In the morning hours rumors and report circulate on Twitter and internet discussion forums of some sort of internet block in Phnom Penh. Some websites cannot be accessed on some ISPs, including all of Blogspot, a popular blogging platform hosting thousands of blogs including the controversial KI Media.

The ISPs give conflicting stories. Some say that there is a technical problem and that they are working on it. One ISP posts a notice that the website has been banned by order of the Ministry of Interior. ISP Ezecom phone representatives tell customers that the websites have been blocked by order the government, stating "the Ministry of the Interior has requested that all ISPs block all blogger sites."

The MPTC denies any official directive to block websites.
Cambodia blocks blogspot  
‘Blogging Site Blockage Sparks Censorship Worries,’ The Cambodia Daily, January 20, 2011

Late January 19, 2011
Denials all around. The ISPs (that comment) deny that they received a directive from the government. The MPTC denies issuing a directive. The Ministry of Information denies knowledge of issuing directive.
Cambodia blocks blogspot

January 20, 2011
Blogspot is accessible through most ISPs again. (All but Metfone according to the CCHR Report) Ezecom sends a notice to its customers in response to press reports, denying it received a directive from the government to restrict access to any website. “As the CEO I can say, we have received no directive, nor did we block access to any websites on our service.”

The Minister of Information states that he is unaware of any order to block access to the site. “Until now I am still in the dark about who made the order. My ministry never issued such an order.”
ISP denies blocking blogsite, The Phnom Penh Post  
The curious case of the banning that wasn’t 
‘Internet Firms Deny Gov’t Silenced Blogs,’ The Cambodia Daily, January 11, 2011

January 22, 2011
Some Internet users report that KI Media is inaccessible. Other Blogspot sites are still accessible on most ISPs.

January 24, 2011
KI Media sets up a ‘mirror site’ on WordPress, another blogging service.

Late January 25, 2011
Government officials continue to deny knowledge of an official block or order to block. ISPs continue to give conflicting stories.

The block seems inconsistent. Many users report Blogspot available. Some users report the KI Media is available sporadically.

‘Mystery Continues to Surround Opposition Site,’ The Cambodia Daily, January 25, 2011

February 2, 2011
The MPTC issues a draft prakas providing for the registration of internet exchange points. The draft parkas includes several stipulations, including the requirement that that internet exchange points follow the rules and regulations of Cambodia, including those related to pornography.

Early February
By the end of the first week of February there are increased reports from Internet users on different ISPs that they are consistently unable to access KI Media.

February 10, 2011
On February 15 the Phnom Penh Post acquires the minutes from a meeting between the MPTC and the ISP representatives that took place today, February 10. The Post quotes: “In the meeting, His Excellency said that the Royal Government did not have a principle of blocking some websites, but His Excellency made a request to all operators to cooperate in curbing some websites that affect Khmer morality and tradition and the government through using the internet…He suggested that all operators help to cooperate and report on time so that the Ministry is able to offer its report to the government.”
Ministry denies blocking website, The Phnom Penh Post 

February 14, 2011
Internet users report KI media inaccessible on several ISPs. Users trying to access KI Media through WiCam get a message stating that the site had been “blocked as ordered by the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications of Cambodia.” The Post reports that a WiCam employe told them “the ministry sent an email to the company several weeks ago ordering them to block access to the site because it 'impacts the government.’” Other ISPs either refuse comment or deny receiving any directive.

The MPTC continues to deny issuing “any order” to block the site.
Opposition site blocked, The Phnom Penh Post 
‘Government Continues to Deny It Blocked Blog,’ The Cambodia Daily, February 16, 2011

February 15, 2011
KI Media, Khmerization and political cartoonist Sacrava websites all remain unavailable. From the Phnom Penh Post: “Internet users have reported to The Post that they were unable to access the website KI-Media through four ISPs: Online, WiCam, Metfone, and Ezecom. Two other sites, Khmerization and Sacrava, which carry content that overlaps with KI-Media, could not be accessed through Ezecom.”
Ministry denies blocking website, The Phnom Penh Post

Wicam takes down message. The MPTC denies ordering a block.

The Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) condemns the internet block.:
By extending its censorship to the internet, the government is likely to create further discontent amongst the people. It is only by joining the online dialogue and by responding to criticisms with reasoned argument that the government can hope to avoid the criticisms it seems so intent on suppressing.
February 16, 2011
The Phnom Penh Post obtains a copy of an email from the MPTC to 10 local ISPs thanking them for their efforts to block several websites. The e-mail stated, “I am writing to extend my appreciation to you all for your cooperation with MPTC” and that it was sent to Ezecom, Metfone, Citylink, Digi, AngkorNet, WiCam, Telecom Cambodia, Camnet, Online and Camintel. The ISPs continued to either decline comment or deny knowledge of any email or memo.  
Ministry denies blocking website, The Phnom Penh Post Tangled Web Reveled, The Phnom Penh Post 
KI-Media ban confusion, The Phnom Penh Post

LICAHDO condemns the blocking KI Media and other websites.  
LICHADO issues a condemnation of blocking websites 

February 18, 2011
The Cambodia Daily reports it has copies of emails from the government dated Feb 9 and Feb 11 strongly requesting that ISPs block certain website. Government spokesman soften their denials, now saying that there was no official censorship policy but that ISP providers were free to decide to censor their own content. The email was sent to several people by name including the CEO of Ezecom.

In what was perhaps the most memorable quote of the whole affair, when a Cambodia Daily reporter phoned the CEO of Ezecom for a comment about the government emails, he snapped "can't hear you" and hung up the phone.

One ISP states that it has not blocked anything but would if formally asked.

‘E-Mail Points to Collusion in Gov’t Censorship’ The Cambodia Daily, February 18, 2011

Interlude - After KI
Over the following weeks the blocked websites gradually disappear from the press, appearing only in the occasional NGO report. But the block itself stayed firmly in place and slowly became part of the background. KI Media and Khmerization ISPs have remained consistently unavailable through most ISPs to this day (August 2012.) ISPs continue to deny knowledge or evade the question when asked. Those who want access to the blocked websites either use a proxy server or an ISP such as Mobitel that does not block sites.

June 2011
The Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) releases a report calling for greater Internet freedom in Cambodia.
 Internet Censorship: The Ongoing Crackdown on Freedom of Expression in Cambodia

January 2012
Internet penetration doubles in one year and is estimated at 449,160 users at the end of 2011.  
Cambodia's Internet penetration more than doubles

Pending Internet Law
Though the exact figure is a matter of debate, Internet penetration in Cambodia is increasing rapidly and at an accelerating pace. Facebook subscribers now number near a half-million. The Commune Elections have just passed at the National Elections are now less than a year away. After months absent from the press, Internet in Cambodia makes news again with the government's announcement of plans to enact an Internet law, purportedly to prevent the spread of dangerous 'false information.' Nothing has come of it yet (as of Aug 15.)

May 24, 2012
The Phnom Penh Post reports that the RGC is once again drafting and planning to enact a new Internet law. Noting 'mushrooming modern technologies' and citing a recent SMS-spread false rumor of a clash between political demonstrators in Phnom Penh, a government spokesman stated, “We need to prevent any ill-willed people or bad mood people from spreading false information, groundless information that could tend to mislead the public and affect national security or our society. We need to control this.”
The ‘ill-willed’ spark cyber law: officials, The Phnom Penh Post
The ‘ill-willed’ spark cyber law: officials, The Phnom Penh Post
Cambodia Law Blog: Internet Speech Law in the Works: Can you Handle the Truth?

June 2012
A blogger posts a rough translation of a legal circular issued by the Ministry of Interior and MPTC in February 2012 outlining new rules for telecommunications providers and users, including Internet, though this is presumably not the expected ‘Internet law’ reported last month. For a complete copy of the circular see: Cambodia’s Default Internet Law – Draft Translation

July 2012
CCHR releases new report “exploring the extent to which new media, namely mobile phones and the internet, are used in Cambodia, and in particular how they are used to promote and protect human rights,” including a detailed history of Internet censorship in Cambodia.
New Media and the Promotion of Human Rights in Cambodia

First week of August 2012
False rumors of the death of Chea Sim spread from Facebook. The rumor is strongly denied by government spokesmen and Chea Sim makes an appearance, putting an end to it. A Council of Ministers spokesman is quoted as saying, “We’re living in the free world, every one has full responsibility, people should not create rumors to jeopardize the social order. Those people abuse their freedom of expression.”
The Phnom Penh Post: Senate President Chea Sim's health 'no problem'  

* Edit: Several typos corrected and this brief intro paragraph (which was somehow omitted in the original upload) inserted (August 17, 11:45PM.) 


  1. Thanks for this great summary. Now, can you tell me whatever happened to Details are Sketchy?

    1. I don't know. Wish I did. She stopped making entries, but the blog was still online for a long time. It was an excellent source of information and insights on important news events of the last decade in Cambodia. Then, several months ago, the blog itself disappeared, presumably taken down by the author. A real loss.

      Regarding Internet censorship, DAS had this to say about the ban on the wesite back in December 2008:

      "It is perhaps indicative of Cambodia’s recent embrace of democracy that so many officials appointed to defend the constitution often display little understanding of the ideas enshrined in it. (Democracy is designed to protect the minority; the majority never needs protecting.)

      If anyone should understand the value of free speech, the deputy director of communication and advocacy at Licadho seems a likely candidate. It is disheartening that Vann Sophath supports censoring Reahu’s illustrations. Yet Vann Sophath is not alone. The comments on Reahu’s web site are so far predominantly pro-censorship too, which is saddening. Intolerance is not the mark of a mighty nation."

  2. Thanks for this useful summary.

  3. I did an email interview with DAS a couple of years back. Here it is:

  4. Thanks, Casey, for this very useful blog post. I have been creating a timeline of the Internet development in Cambodia on English Wikipedia. Your well-sourced information helps me a lot! Like reading your blog, too!

  5. Interesting piece, but I have question: Is there any way to know or estimate how many persons are employed by the Cambodian government to monitor citizen use of the internet?

  6. It is sad that the freedom of internet use is being prohibited to some countries. The internet should not be regarded as a threat, rather it should be treated as an opportunity to learn new things.

  7. For whatever it's worth, probably not much at this point, the page at says "This blog has been archived or suspended for a violation of our Terms of Service."

  8. Many thanks for this comprehensive, informative, and well-documented history. Very interesting, and extremely useful.