The National Police is drafting a sub-decree on the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), also referred to as drones, with an objective “to protect national security”, said the General Commissariat’s anti-cybercrime department director Chea Pov on Monday.
The Ministry of Interior held a meeting last Wednesday to discuss the sub-decree which is aimed at regulating the use of drones.
The meeting was presided over by Bun Hun, the ministry’s secretary of state, with the participation of legal officers from the ministry and other relevant units under its supervision.
Pov confirmed that the sub-decree is aimed at strengthening national security, saying “drones have arrived in Cambodia, that’s why we have to start to regulating them”.
“We do this [regulating the use of drones] for the protection of the Kingdom of Cambodia.”
He said the sub-decree will stipulate punishments but he couldn’t confirm when the draft would be finalised.
“When something has the potential to undermine national security, there shall be punishments.”
Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin said this draft law, when it is ratified, is aimed at maintaining public order and social security.
He said the “anarchic use of drones could affect the rights and privacy of individuals, as well as threaten national security”.
“Since the operation of drones might affect public order, it requires clear regulations through a legal form.”
However, civil society organisations expressed concerns over the planned regulation and said the sub-decree would restrict the rights and freedoms of journalists and opposition groups.
Rights group Adhoc spokesperson Soeng Sen Karuna said the draft law could be used by the government to restrict freedom of the press and silence groups with dissenting opinions.
He urged the government to allow input from members of the public and civil society groups before ratifying the draft law.
But Malin dismissed the concern that the law could affect people’s rights and freedoms, saying that “civil society [groups] always have concerns, but the authorities have an obligation to maintain [public] order and national security”.
“In the interest of public order and national security, freedom also has its boundaries,” he said.
In June 2017, James Ricketson was arrested for flying his drone to film a commune election campaign of the CNRP in Phnom Penh.
He was placed under temporary detention by the authorities for more than a year on an espionage charge under Article 446 of the Criminal Code.
Last year, he was given a royal pardon and deported from the Kingdom, a turn of events that saw him spared from a six-year prison sentence.