Despite “.kh” being introduced in 1996, the country code top-level domain (ccTLD) is still rarely used by businesses and organisations in Cambodia. “I created .kh because I wanted to show the internet world that Cambodia exists (1996),” wrote Norbert Klein, a veteran internet expert who began a not-for-profit ISP in Cambodia in 1994, in an exclusive email interview.
Even Cambodia’s own homegrown social networking site, AngkorOne.com, doesn’t use .kh. “We actually own the registration of AngkorOne.com.kh, but for our actual branding it is difficult to market the name of ‘.com.kh’. Also, we wanted to build a world-class website to successfully compete with Western brands and the world’s top sites are based only on .com,” Cambodian-born American Steven Path, founder & CEO of Angkor One LLC, said. “We want to build the largest online community for the estimated 25 million Khmers living in the US, Vietnam, Thailand, France and others to unite as one proud race. ‘Angkor’ was also selected due to the significant historic period when the united Khmer Empire had ruled most of [Southeast] Asia.”
But other companies seem to have an interest in developing a Cambodian online identity. Australian-owned coffeehouse Gloria Jeans, who established its outlet in Cambodia earlier this year, sees having a local identity (gloriajeans.com.kh) as an important part of their entrance into the Kingdom. The international coffee chain launched a website tailored to promoting its presence in Cambodia. “We use .com.kh as we are Gloria Jean’s coffees Cambodia Co Ltd. We’re registered in Cambodia and are proudly Cambodian. Therefore, we went the extra mile to have .com.kh,” said Rebecca Adam, Gloria Jeans’ general manager.
Getting a .kh online site is not as easy as sending and receiving an email. Despite the fact it is meant for the internet, .kh can only be purchased in the real world. “I have friends in Singapore who also have businesses in Cambodia and they want to have a .kh, but they couldn’t because the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPTC) only accepts payments in cash. So my friends asked me to pay $55 and I paid cash at the MPTC for them,” Klein said.
With Cambodia connected to the web since the 1990s, the Kingdom’s MPTC opened up the sector, licensing more foreign firms to invest and operate in telecoms.
This resulted in telecom infrastructure that has made the country better connected. “This initiative has certainly assisted in the commercial growth of Cambodia,” Minister of Posts and Telecommunications So Khun said in a speech marking World Communication and Information Society day.
Perhaps the most recent success for the .kh ccTLD was the creation of the Google site google.com.kh in 2006, which has given Cambodians the ability to search millions of Khmer-language websites. It has been a slow start as Cambodia begins to build its online identity, but with sites like Google jumping on board, it will almost certainly grow faster in the future.