CAMBODIA: The government of Cambodia has recently proposed a new internet gateway that will confine and monitor the online activities of all internet users. Similar to China’s strategy of online repression, the gateway will enable the government to increase online surveillance, censorship and seek personal information.
On February 16, Prime Minister Hun Sen signed the sub-decree on the establishment of the National Internet Gateway of Cambodia. Moreover, the sub-degree demands all the service providers in Cambodia to reroute their services through the Gateway within 12 months. The deadline is till February 2022. A regulatory body charged with monitoring online activity will guide the internet traffic in Cambodia before it reaches the users.
Furthermore, the new gateway is perturbing the concerned. To add, it is breaching the law of freedom of expression and privacy. Many concerned organizations and bodies are showing their distress over the change.
On July 8, 2020, The Ministry of Post and Telecommunications proposed a sub-decree and sent it to the Council of Ministers for adoption. The Asia Internet Coalition, social media companies, foreign government, and various freedom groups dissented but the government decided to ignore their pleas.
“By expanding the government’s control over the country’s internet, Prime Minister Hun Sen’s action is seemingly menacing against the internet freedom and e-commerce in Cambodia,” Deputy Asia Director, Phil Robertson said.
“Cambodia’s National Internet Gateway is the missing tool in the government’s toolbox for online repression,” Robertson said. He added that with the elections around the corner, the Hun Sen government is taking care of the online critics after shutting down the Critical media of the country.
“The gateway may have an adverse effect on online communications and generate self-censorship among critical voices and independent media outlets who fear harassment, arbitrary administrative penalties, or even arrest and prosecution,” Human Rights Watch said.
Meanwhile, Cambodia’s government is also working on other draft laws that will facilitate the restriction of internet freedom and digital rights.