Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Outlaw phone companies back in business on border

Outlaw phone companies back in business on border

Outlaw phone companies back in business on border

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

stations.

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

Sangva.

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.

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