June 4, 2023


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Cambodia measures up surveillance with new online gateway

4 min read

Phnom Penh (AFP) – Cambodia is powering up its new National Net Gateway, a go activists say will let the governing administration to further more silence the country’s embattled opposition voices.

UN rights industry experts warn the gateway, which will funnel all website visitors by means of a point out-controlled entry stage from February 16, will have a “devastating” outcome on privacy and no cost speech.

It is the most recent go by authoritarian ruler Hun Sen to clamp down on dissent in a place that has arrested dozens for on the net posts in the latest a long time, critics say.

Hip-hop artist Kea Sokun, whose lyrics about injustice and corruption have struck a chord with Cambodia’s disaffected youth, was between individuals jailed.

As his tunes clocked up hundreds of thousands of sights on YouTube, plainclothes law enforcement came knocking in September 2020.

“They held inquiring who was backing me?” Kea Sokun told AFP.

He was arrested and convicted of incitement, shelling out a year driving bars, and now fears the new gateway will lead to more persons struggling the identical destiny.

Cambodian hip-hop artist Kea Sokun invested a yr driving bars for incitement just after his music about injustice and corruption racked up million of views on YouTube TANG CHHIN Sothy AFP

“It will be tricky to freely categorical views,” he claimed.

“They arrested me in buy to intimidate other individuals.”

Last year, an autistic teen, the son of a jailed opposition figure, was sentenced to 8 months in jail for Telegram messages deemed insulting to the governing administration.

Clampdown on dissent

World-wide-web gateways are the details on a community exactly where a country connects to the around the globe world wide web.

Once entirely operational, Cambodia’s new Countrywide Net Gateway will channel all targeted visitors by way of a single entry stage managed by the authorities.

Internet provider suppliers will be ordered to block web-sites and connections that adversely have an impact on “nationwide earnings, safety, social purchase, morality, tradition, traditions and customs”.

UN rights experts have warned that Cambodia's new internet gateway will have a "devastating" effect on privacy and free speech
UN legal rights experts have warned that Cambodia’s new online gateway will have a “devastating” effect on privacy and totally free speech TANG CHHIN Sothy AFP/File

UN legal rights gurus warned earlier this month that the sweeping new powers will further more shrink what is remaining of the room for dissent in Cambodia, wherever Hun Sen has buttressed his 37-year rule by steadily rolling back democratic freedoms.

The Cambodian Centre for Human Legal rights (CCHR) states the new gateway will give the previous Khmer Rouge cadre however far more means to silence opposing voices.

In 2021, at the very least 39 Cambodians were being arrested, jailed or experienced arrest warrants issued from them for online posts that fell foul of govt censors, according to the CCHR.

Elections are predicted upcoming calendar year, and the CCHR states the completion of the gateway now could permit the govt to block dissenting views online in the operate-up to polls.

Cybersecurity expert Matt Warren, from Australia’s RMIT College, said there could be attempts to silence significant-profile opposition figures dwelling in exile from weighing into the domestic political debate forward of the 2023 polls.

“Will Cambodians outdoors the place be in a position to get aspect in the social dialogue in the course of the election?” Warren claimed.

Thailand’s then-ruling junta mulled introducing a solitary web gateway in 2015 but backed down in the face of opposition from small business.

Apart from the privacy and rights problems, market figures warn that funneling all targeted visitors by way of a solitary position leaves the country very vulnerable to staying reduce off — possibly thanks to a complex fault or a cyber assault.


Authorities spokesman Phay Siphan insisted the world wide web gateway is essential to crack down on cyber-criminal offense, keep national safety and acquire profits.

Cambodians required to fully grasp that flexibility of “expression comes with tasks” and that “insulting or manipulating data can influence countrywide protection or individuals’ reputations,” he claimed.

Cambodians may find messages from high-profile opposition figures living abroad blocked under the kingdom's new internet regime
Cambodians may possibly discover messages from high-profile opposition figures residing abroad blocked less than the kingdom’s new net regime TANG CHHIN Sothy AFP

But the new gateway appears to be taking Cambodia down a route beaten by China, which maintains even additional subtle electronic equipment to keep an eye on and censor the world wide web for its citizens, holding the online planet at the rear of a “Excellent Firewall” and blocking key Western platforms these as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

“It can be the Balkanisation of the net. You’ve obtained the web in China, you’ve got acquired the Russian world wide web, you have acquired the net in Saudi Arabia, in which they are isolated and monitored,” Warren explained to AFP.

“It can be not just about censorship, it can be also about control.”

The Cambodian government’s most significant anxiety, Warren explained, is that its people today could just take inspiration from anti-coup campaigners in Myanmar, who made use of social media platforms to organise mass protests in opposition to the junta.

As the gateway’s completion working day looms, numerous Cambodians are turning to digital personal networks (VPNs) to skirt online censorship.

Top rated10VPN, a Britain-dependent digital safety advocacy team, stated there experienced been a 56 per cent surge in need for VPN accounts in Cambodia in December.

So considerably, there are no stories of authorities cracking down on VPN use.

“Nevertheless, where ever there are extensive-time period government limitations on web entry, VPN bans are confident to abide by,” head researcher Simon Migliano informed AFP.

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