News / Asia

    Cambodia's Draft Cybercrime Law Worrying, Say Critics

    FILE - Lary, 27, takes a picture with his tablet in Phnom Penh.
    FILE - Lary, 27, takes a picture with his tablet in Phnom Penh.
    Robert Carmichael
    Work on Cambodia's secretive Cybercrime Law has been going on behind closed doors for two years, with the government so far refusing any input from civil society groups. Recently, though, a copy of the draft was leaked. Some of the proposal's provisions have raised concerns that Cambodia's ruling party could one day use the law to target its critics.
     
    Britain-based information freedom group Article 19 has released a scathing assessment of Cambodia's draft Cybercrime Law. The group said measures in the bill fall well below international standards, threatening freedom of expression in Cambodia.
     
    The draft law, on which work started two years ago, has assumed increasing relevance since July's general election, which the ruling Cambodian People's Party, or CPP, narrowly won, taking around half the vote and 68 of parliament's 123 seats.
     
    The CPP has for years benefited from exerting complete control over all local television, along with most radio stations and newspapers.
     
    That led their political opponents to turn to Facebook, YouTube and other online tools to communicate with supporters. As a result, the CPP was thoroughly outmaneuvered online, and the opposition took 55 seats in parliament, almost double its previous total. Opposition supporters have since claimed that the ruling party cheated its way to victory.
     
    Political analyst Ou Virak said the CPP completely underestimated the potential of the online space, and that its efforts to catch up since then have failed. Virak pointed out that the provisions of the draft Cybercrime Law, which the government wants to put before parliament this year, need to be seen in that context.
     
    “The ruling party is certainly frustrated at the fact that they cannot win the battle online. They have no idea what to do. They tried different things. They tried throwing a lot of money, and that didn't work. So they're obviously frustrated. And this is why the Cybercrime Law is going to be one that the government is looking at as a potential tool. Because they don't know how to respond. Certainly the election is something that is on the government's mind,” said Virak.
     
    Virak said the ruling party knows it needs to do something to regain support. He argued that if the party was younger and less bureaucratic, it could try to adapt and compete for political allegiance of the country's million-plus young Facebook users and the three million other online users.
     
    “But I don't think that's possible with this government. And, so yes, they will respond with trying to introduce different legislation so they can have their way,” said Virak.
     
    The Cybercrime Law could also affect foreign hackers who have made Cambodia their home base for launching cyberattacks abroad.
     
    On Tuesday, the government announced that it had worked with the FBI to arrest two local hackers with the online Anonymous collective. The U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh declined to comment on the grounds that the investigation is ongoing.
     
    Several clauses of the draft Cybercrime Law contain serious punishments.
     
    For example, posting information online that a government-appointed committee deems harmful to the country's sovereignty or integrity could result in three years in jail. Other similar vague crimes include: affecting "the integrity of any government agencies or ministries or officials"; inciting "anarchism"; or causing insecurity.
     
    Those found guilty could also be stripped of their civic rights and barred from their profession for life.
     
    Asked to comment on the draft law, the U.S. Embassy said it understood that some independent analysts had voiced concerns about the bill on the grounds that it was overly broad and could be used to restrict online freedom of expression. An embassy spokesman said the U.S. strongly supports freedom of expression whether online or offline, and encouraged the Cambodian government to consult more widely on the draft.
     
    Leewood Phu, who advises the Cambodian government on information technology, suggested much the same to the drafting committee. But, he said, the committee ignored the advice.
     
    “It does not include the process of making law in a democratic country. You have to have some kind of background paper on it, and then you have to have some kind of White Paper on it, and then for public to comment on the White Paper, and then once the public is finished then you can put it to the Council of Ministers and pass it, and then to the National Assembly to pass it. But the process wasn't there,” said Phu.
     
    There are other problems with the draft, added Phu, including that the committee did not consult any judges or lawyers - which is why punishments for similar crimes committed offline are far less severe than for their online equivalents.
     
    Information rights group Article 19 has called on the government to consult with civil society before the draft goes any further. It's not clear whether that will happen. Despite repeated efforts, VOA was unable to reach Prak Sokhon, the minister for post and telecommunications, and two officials involved in drafting the law have so far declined to comment.

    You May Like

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Annual festival showcases the region's harvested agriculture, fine wines and offers opportunities to experience the gentle breeze in a hot air balloon flight

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora