A CONTROVERSIAL Web site that the government condemned last year for its pictures of scantily clad Khmer women was accessible from at least half of the local Internet service providers contacted by the Post on Wednesday, despite statements by the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications that it had been blocked.
Ros Sorakha, an undersecretary of state at the ministry, said Tuesday that www.reahu.net, the Web site of the Khmer-American artist Koke Lor, was not accessible anywhere in Cambodia. The government last year requested that ISPs block access to the site because its images – one of which features a topless apsara wearing the clothes of a Khmer Rouge soldier – were deemed to be in conflict with national values.
The claim from Ros Sarakha came during the annual conference of the National Committee for Upholding Social Morality, during which she also said the committee would begin meeting every two months to review Web sites featuring racy images of Cambodian women, and would consider blocking access to some of them.
Of the 12 ISPs reached this week, only four – AngkorNet, Camintel, Telecom Cambodia and Online – could confirm that they had blocked access to www.reahu.net on their networks. Staffers at two other ISPs said they were unable to access the site but could not confirm that it had been blocked. And representatives from six others said they had never been asked to block it.
Sieng Sithy, deputy director of the Directorate of Telecommunications Policies and Regulation at the Posts and Telecommunications Ministry, said Wednesday that the ministry had sent a request for the site to be blocked to all ISPs after the Ministry of Women’s Affairs raised concerns about its content last January. “Most [ISPs] have blocked it already,” but some still provide access, he said. “We ordered them to block not only this site, but [all] Web sites that might affect Khmer culture.”
Though he noted that the ISPs had been asked, and not ordered, to block the site, he said the ministry would take action against ISPs that had not complied. He declined to say what that action might be or when it would take place. “The ministry is very busy now. We have many tasks to do,” he said.
Speaking to the Post shortly after his site was blocked last year, Koke Lor expressed surprise that the government would bother to target it.
“It’s a form of art that is acceptable the world over. Look at the bars and prostitution here – people seem to find that acceptable, yet they block my Web site,” he said.
Koke Lor said in an email Wednesday that he believed the government was focusing on his Web site as a way of distracting the public from more difficult challenges.
“There are bigger problems in Cambodia than a harmless Web site,” he said. “My analogy is this: Let’s say you’re in grammar school and you want to show everyone that you’re tough. What do you do? You go pick on the little nerdy kids because the other kids are bigger and meaner than you are.”