Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Telecommunications law allows gov’t to spy: Licadho

Telecommunications law allows gov’t to spy: Licadho

A young man surfs the internet on his mobile phone last year in Phnom Penh.
A young man surfs the internet on his mobile phone last year in Phnom Penh. Hong Menea

Telecommunications law allows gov’t to spy: Licadho

The government has granted itself pervasive snooping powers to effectively monitor all electronic communication and punish anything deemed to have caused “national insecurity”, a legal analysis of the recently passed telecommunications law has warned.

In a briefing paper released yesterday, rights group Licadho cites a litany of “serious threats” posed by provisions in the law – approved in December – to privacy and freedom of expression. Among the chief concerns, Article 97 permits “secret surveillance” of any and all electronic telecommunications with the approval of a “legitimate authority”, which is not clearly defined.

Meanwhile, Article 80 states that “establishment, installation and utilisation of equipment in the telecommunications sector, if these acts lead to national insecurity, shall be punished by sentences from seven to 15 years imprisonment”.

Further, Article 66 generally prohibits telecommunications activity that “may affect public order or security”.

A new force of “telecommunications inspections officials” – granted police powers to enforce the law – will also be able to call on help from the military and request prosecutors to destroy evidence in criminal cases, the paper notes.

As the use of social media booms in Cambodia, the government has dedicated greater resources to regulating online communication.

“This law is a tool to manage and restrict public expression,” said Mi Nac, an advocacy specialist with the Cooperation Committee of Cambodia.

Licadho suggests the government could use the legislation to interfere in the private sector. The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications can compel companies to hand over data.

In the event of “force majeure”, the ministry can order private operators to take “necessary measures”.

The regulator can also suspend or terminate the employment of staff at private companies for breaching the law and replace them with its own appointees in order to “check” the activities of the firms.

An industry insider, who spoke on condition of anonymity yesterday, said including custodial sentences for violations was a step too far.

“You can’t imprison employees; there should be a fine like any other country,” they said.

Representatives of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications could not be reached yesterday.

MOST VIEWED

  • Government denies claims former Thai PM Yingluck issued Cambodian passport

    Government officials on Thursday denied claims that a Cambodian passport was issued to former Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who reportedly used it to register a company in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong-based English language South China Morning Post (SCMP) on Wednesday reported Hong Kong

  • Diplomatic passports issued to foreigners to be annulled

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation will move to annul diplomatic passports issued to those not born in Cambodia. Analysts say the move may be in relation to reports that former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra used a Cambodian passport to register as

  • Hun Sen warns Irish MP of EBA ‘mistake’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday told former Irish premier Enda Kenny, still a member of the EU nation’s parliament, that the 28-nation bloc should not make a “third mistake” regarding Cambodia by using the preferential Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement to “take 16 million

  • The hairy little heroes saving many lives in rural Cambodia

    IN RURAL Siem Reap province, rats dare to tread where no person will, as these hairy little heroes place their lives on the line each day for the good of the local community. The rodents are the most important members of a special team, leading