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Pirates in Cambodia?

Despite assertions from government officials that Cambodia was steadily improving its intellectual property laws as per WTO guidelines, Asian film industry insiders believe that large-scale optical piracy operations are currently being set up here.

Managing Director of Asian Movieworks Scott Rosenberg said a crackdown on piracy around Asia meant that organised crime rings were relocating to "more fertile ground" like Cambodia.

Last year, combined efforts between the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and local authorities led to the closure of 63 illegal optical piracy factories in Malaysia, China, Singapore, Thailand and Taiwan.

"The centre for Thailand's piracy has shifted to Cambodia with product now being produced in Cambodia and shipped back to Bangkok and Singapore for distribution around the world," Rosenberg said. "The 'system' in Cambodia is presently influenced too much by money, of which the 'pirates' have lots to buy off any enforcement."

MPAA Asia Pacific Regional Director and piracy enforcement chief Mike Ellis also said there was mounting evidence to suggest increased criminal activity and illegal production within Cambodia.

"We are hearing these rumours too and we are reviewing exactly what is in the country by way of production to verify the extent of the problem," he said. "We have recently come across a number of imports to Thailand...that are coming across the Laos border, which I find interesting."

Secretary of State at the Ministry of Commerce and head WTO negotiator Sok Siphana admitted he had heard rumours of large-scale piracy operations in Cambodia but said that due to the lack of big business and a "rapidly changing" understanding of intellectual property laws, he doubted there were worthwhile incentives for clandestine business to relocate to Cambodia.

"I think that irrespective of what people perceive, it's 80 percent good, 20 percent bad," he said. "But everyone is focusing on the sexy subjects. Our progress [in intellectual property] hasn't been too bad for a country that has come out of nowhere."

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