Illegal telephone antennas have sprung up near the Cambodian-Thai border five months
after a government crackdown on the network of relay stations used to connect callers
to the Thai phone grid, allowing for cheaper international phone calls and undermining
government revenue collection.
Last August, the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications ordered the removal of an
estimated 500 antennas and relay stations operating across Banteay Meanchey, Battambang,
Pursat, Oddar Meanchey and Koh Kong provinces.
At the time, Banteay Meanchey's Post and Telecommunication Office Chief Ok Bora said
the government was losing between $50,000 and $60,000 per month due to the illegal
Reconstruction began in late December, said Bora, and by early January he had found
more than ten antenna stations operating in Banteay Meanchey province.
Chem Sangva, deputy director of the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications (MPTC),
urged the operators of casinos at Koh Kong and Poipet to use the Cambodian network
because using Thai networks deprived the government of income.
"If all the people use our domestic networks, the state income will increase
because we get revenue sharing from private telephone network companies," said
Calls made inside Thailand, or using Thai-based phone networks, cost about 25 cents
per minute. A land line call to Thailand from Cambodia cost about 60 cents per minute.
The system is exploited mostly by businesses and Bora estimated that about 90 percent
of Poipet's casinos were tapping into the Thai networks.
Sangva said the MPTC and the Post and Telegraph Department of Thailand have set up
a joint technical committee to control frequency interference and prevent illegal
operation of line and wireless access points in Cambodia.
The issue of Thai network abuse in Cambodia has been raised twice with the Thai authorities
and Sangva is awaiting a response after requesting another meeting this month.
So Khun, Minister of Post and Telecommunications, said the new technology of compact
antennas makes network abuse difficult to detect, but believes there are fewer antennas
in operation now than before the crackdown.
The new antennas look like television antennas and can relay signals from mobile
phones within a 500-meter radius, Bora said. He estimated that antenna operators
pay about $200 per month to Thai companies for access to their phone networks.