Internet freedom remains under threat in Cambodia. Ahead of elections that occurred in July 2023, after the coverage period, Cambodian authorities arrested opposition members for their online activities and forced the closure of independent media outlets. Internet users often face arrest for online activity, perpetuating an environment that is characterized by fear and self-censorship. Authorities have sought to establish a single national internet gateway that would facilitate greater censorship and surveillance. Former members of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), an opposition party that was dissolved by court order in 2017 and has since operated in exile, faced heightened monitoring, harassment, and imprisonment for their online activities.
Cambodia’s political system has been dominated by former prime minister Hun Sen, current premier Hun Manet, and the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) for more than three decades. While the country conducted semicompetitive elections in the past, the 2018 and 2023 elections were held in a severely repressive environment. The CPP government has maintained pressure on opposition supporters, independent press outlets, and demonstrators with intimidation, politically motivated prosecutions, and violence.
- Government officials sought to curb news coverage critical of the government, sometimes responding with website blocks, content removals, and delicensing of media outlets ahead of the July 2023 elections (see B1, B2, and B6).
- The February 2023 revocation of the media license of Voice of Democracy (VOD) and the March 2023 revocation of three Khmer-language outlets’ licenses marked a significant decline in the availability of independent news (see B6).
- A September 2022 draft of the Cybersecurity Law revealed that it would empower authorities to seize computer systems and access user data under broad circumstances related to national security and public order (see C4).
- Former CNRP members faced prison sentences of five to seven years for their activism, including for criticism of the government on social media, as mass trials continued ahead of the July 2023 elections (see C3).
- Journalists, activists, and other internet users continued to face physical and online harassment for their online posts, with numerous journalists and activists arrested or threatened over their legitimate reporting (see C3 and C7).
|Do infrastructural limitations restrict access to the internet or the speed and quality of internet connections?||4.004 6.006|
Internet usage and smartphone adoption in Cambodia has boomed in recent years but decreased during the coverage period. As of January 2023, Cambodia’s internet penetration rate was 67.5 percent, a 11.3 percent decrease from previous year.1 Ookla recorded Cambodia’s median mobile internet download speed at 22.79 megabits per second (Mbps) in May 20232 ; Cambodia ranked 96th globally for mobile internet download speeds. The country’s median fixed-line broadband download speed was 22.81 Mbps; it ranked 126th globally in this category.3 Telecommunications companies have attributed the increase in penetration rate to the heightened use of social media, with 88 percent of the country’s over-18 population regularly using such services. 4
Internet access, however, is constrained by poor infrastructure. Nationwide power outages have posed challenges to telecommunications companies and impose additional constraints on computer and internet use.5 In March and May 2023, Électricité du Cambodge (EdC), the power utility, announced plans for maintenance work, causing planned blackouts that lasted as long as eight hours in parts of Phnom Penh.6 Outages continued in Phnom Penh and Kandal Province in June 2023, after the coverage period.7 EdC coordinated repair-related blackouts in 2021 and 2022.8
Some other infrastructure improvements, such as the rollout of a “smart-grid” electrical system in the last 10 percent of households in remote villages living without electricity, started in December 2020.9 However, internet connections can still be extremely slow, especially in remote and rural areas (see A2). Broadband internet services depend on fixed-line networks that are not as readily available in rural areas, thus inhibiting wider internet penetration. As a result, in 2018, internet service providers (ISPs) constructed two submarine fiber-optic internet networks connecting to high-speed international connections, the Malaysia-Cambodia-Thailand (MCT) cable and the Asia-Africa-Europe 1 (AAE-1) cable, covering over 23,000 miles.10 In February 2020, Telecom Cambodia signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Cambodia Fiber-Optic Communication Network Co., Ltd. (CFOCN) to construct a metropolitan and regional fiber-optic backbone network.11 There were no significant updates to the project’s construction by the end of the coverage period.
The Cambodian government has demonstrated a commitment to introduce fifth-generation (5G) technology for mobile networks across the country.12 In April 2020, it signed a MoU with the Chinese firm Huawei to build a 5G network in Cambodia.13 Several mobile service providers have also aimed to introduce 5G services, including Cellcard, Smart Axiata, and Metfone.14 However, the 5G rollout stalled as the government has not issued a 5G policy, roadmap, or approvals to permit the operation of 5G networks by the end of the coverage period.15 In its Cambodia Digital Economy and Social Policy Framework 2022–2035, the government reiterated its intention to develop 5G infrastructure.16
- 1Simon Kemp, “Digital 2023: Cambodia,” February 13, 2023 https://datareportal.com/reports/digital-2023-cambodia
- 2Ookla, ‘’Speedtest Global Index: Cambodia Median Country Speeds May 2023’’ Accessed June 31, 2023, https://www.speedtest.net/global-index/cambodia
- 3Ookla, “Speedtest Global Index: Cambodia’s Mobile and Broadband Speeds,” accessed May 11, 2022, https://www.speedtest.net/global-index/cambodia#fixed.
- 4Simon Kemp, “Digital 2023: Cambodia,” February 13, 2023 https://datareportal.com/reports/digital-2023-cambodia; Chloe Ang, “Cambodia’s 2019 Social Media & Digital Statistics,” Geeks in Cambodia, July 16, 2019, http://geeksincambodia.com/cambodias-2019-social-media-digital-statisti…
- 5Poovenraj Kanagaraj, “Demand for data with upcoming 5G rollout may see price increases,” Khmer Times, January 27, 2020, https://www.khmertimeskh.com/50683844/demand-for-data-with-upcoming-5g-….
- 6Khmer Times, ‘’Cambodia: Planned power outages to continue in parts of Phnom Penh through May 28’’ May 26, 2023 https://www.khmertimeskh.com/501297482/cambodia-planned-power-outages-t…; Khmer Times, “EDC announces Phnom Penh power outages for four days,” March 9, 2023, https://www.khmertimeskh.com/501252160/edc-announces-phnom-penh-power-o….
- 7“Cambodia: Planned power outages to continue in parts of Phnom Penh and Kandal Province through June 4,” Crisis24, June 1, 2023, https://crisis24.garda.com/alerts/2023/06/cambodia-planned-power-outage…
- 8Khmer Times, “Scheduled power cuts announced for Phnom Penh and some provinces”, May, 27, 2021https://www.khmertimeskh.com/50863303/scheduled-power-cuts-announced-fo… ; See e.g., Khmer Times, “ Electricite du Cambodge announces power outages from today to August 22,” August 19, 2022 https://www.khmertimeskh.com/50919180/electricite-du-cambodge-announces…; Khmer Times, “EDC announces forthcoming power outages in Phnom Penh,” October 14, 2021 https://www.khmertimeskh.com/50951957/edc-announces-forthcoming-power-o…; Khmer Times, “EDC issues notification on Phnom Penh power outages from today until 28 November,” November 25 2021 https://www.khmertimeskh.com/50977327/edc-issues-notification-on-phnom-…; Khmer Times, “EDC announces Phnom Penh power outages from today until 09 January,” January 6, 2022 https://www.khmertimeskh.com/501002107/edc-announces-phnom-penh-power-o…
- 9Buth Sela, “Village first to get ‘smart grid’ in Kampong Chhnang province,” Khmer Times, December 23, 2020 https://www.khmertimeskh.com/50796286/village-first-to-get-smart-grid-i….
- 10Sok Chan, “Number of internet users up this year,” Khmer Times, December 7, 2018, https://www.khmertimeskh.com/557066/number-of-internet-users-up-this-ye….
- 11May Kunmakara, “Telemcom Cambodia, CFOCN sign fibre optic network deal” Phnom Penh Post, February 12, 2020 https://www.phnompenhpost.com/business/telecom-cambodia-cfocn-sign-fibr….
- 12See e.g. “Press Release: Officials from Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications of Cambodia joined 5G Training held in Beijing, aiming to speed up Cambodia 5G launch in 2020,” Khmer Times, January 13, 2020 https://www.khmertimeskh.com/50679345/officials-from-ministry-of-posts-…. In January 2020, officials from Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications of Cambodia (MPTC) travelled to Beijing to participate in a 5G training session conducted by the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology.
- 13Thou Vireak, “Metfone to use Huawei’s 5G technology for network,” Phnom Penh Post, August 27, 2019, https://www.phnompenhpost.com/business/metfone-use-huaweis-5g-technolog….
- 14See e.g., Shaun Turton, “Cambodia joins the 5G race despite concerns over cost and viability,” Nikkei Asia, May 20, 2019, https://s.nikkei.com/2Elc0qT;Sok Chan, “Cellcard ready to upgrade infrastructure to 5G,” Khmer Times, October 4, 2018, https://www.khmertimeskh.com/539136/cellcard-ready-to-upgrade-infrastru…; Shaun Turton, “Huawei extends Asia dominance with Cambodia 5G rollout,” Nikkei Asia, April 26, 2019, https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Technology/Huawei-extends-Asia-dominan…. “Internet users in Cambodia near 16M,” Bangkok Post, July 26, 2020, https://www.bangkokpost.com/business/1719527/internet-users-in-cambodia…; May Kunmakara, “Ministry: 5G essential for Cambodia’s digitalisation,” Phnom Penh Post, February 27, 2020, https://www.phnompenhpost.com/business/ministry-5g-essential-cambodias-….
- 15James Barton, “Cambodia waits on the government to release 5G policy,” Developing Telecoms, September 1, 2021, https://developingtelecoms.com/telecom-business/market-reports-with-bud…; Khmer Times, “Mobile operators locked and loaded on 5G laun pending release of Cambodian Government Policy’’. September 2, 2021 https://www.khmertimeskh.com/50927780/mobile-operators-locked-and-loade…
- 16“CAMBODIA DIGITAL GOVERNMENT POLICY 2022-2035,” Ministry of Post and Telecommunications , January 2022, https://data.opendevelopmentcambodia.net/en/dataset/a69155a3-5a51-4038-…
|Is access to the internet prohibitively expensive or beyond the reach of certain segments of the population for geographical, social, or other reasons?||1.001 3.003|
While internet service remains relatively expensive in Cambodia, it has become more affordable over time, though a gap in access remains between urban and rural areas. According to Cable, the average monthly cost of a fixed-line broadband subscription was $28.13 in 2023,1 while 1 gigabyte (GB) of mobile data cost $0.42 on average in 2022.2 These costs are expensive for many Cambodians, which had an estimated poverty rate of 15.2 percent in 2022 per the UN Development Programme.3 In 2022, the monthly minimum wage was set at $194 for workers in the formal economy.4 Some 85 percent of Cambodians work in the informal sector with no minimum wage or protections, often earning far less than the monthly minimum.5 ISPs have sought to make their services more affordable, though the introduction of 5G services is expected to increase prices.6
Those living in urban areas are considerably more likely to have mobile internet access than those in rural areas.7 In December 2019, then prime minister Hun Sen met with the president of Axiata Group Berhad, the Malaysian firm that operates Smart Axiata, and called on the firm to expand services in rural regions, schools, libraries, and hospitals.8 Despite infrastructure improvements, the geographical digital divide led to rural Cambodians being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19-related remote-learning and -working policies. Some two million children living in the countryside were unable to access online education programs used for distance learning because they did not have access to smartphones or satellite dishes.9
A gender gap in internet usage persists in Cambodia. As of January 2023, women represented 45 percent of social media users but 50.5 percent of the population.10 In 2018, 52 percent of men owned a smartphone, representing 45 percent of internet users in the country, and 46 percent of women owned a smartphone, representing 30 percent of Cambodia’s internet users.11
Internet use also varies based on education. In 2016, 27 percent of people with no formal education owned a smartphone; that figure stood at 82 percent for those with a university degree or studying at a university.12 The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the inequalities of smartphone ownership and internet access.13 A government study revealed that over 80 percent of students reported having no access to a smartphone or tablet and lacking sufficient internet bandwidth at home.14 In December 2022, Chea Vandeth, who heads the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPTC), announced plans to launch 158 community technology centers across the country to benefit educators and students.15
- 1“Global broadband pricing league table 2023,” Cable, accessed July 13, 2023, https://www.cable.co.uk/broadband/pricing/worldwide-comparison/.
- 2“Worldwide mobile data pricing 2022,” Cable, accessed July 13, 2023, https://www.cable.co.uk/mobiles/worldwide-data-pricing/.
- 3“UNDP Launches 2022 Economic and Social Impact Assessment of COVID-19 and War in Ukraine on Cambodia,” UNDP, November 23, 2022, https://www.undp.org/cambodia/press-releases/undp-launches-2022-economi….
- 4Ayman Falak, “Cambodia to Increase Minimum Wage for 2022,” ASEAN Briefing, October 19, 2021, https://www.aseanbriefing.com/news/cambodia-to-increase-minimum-wage-fo…
- 5International Labour Organisation, “Cambodia” last accessed March 9, 2022, https://www.ilo.org/integration/themes/mdw/map/countries/WCMS_170047/la…
- 6Poovenraj Kanagaraj, “Demand for data with upcoming 5G rollout may see price increases,” Khmer Times, January 27, 2020, https://www.khmertimeskh.com/50683844/demand-for-data-with-upcoming-5g-….
- 7Asia Foundation, “Mobile Phones and Internet Use in Cambodia 2016,” December 2016, https://asiafoundation.org/publication/mobile-phones-internet-use-cambo….
- 8Ben Sokhean, “PM asks Smart Axiata to provide internet access in rural schools,” Khmer Times, December 18, 2019, https://www.khmertimeskh.com/50671182/pm-asks-smart-axiata-to-provide-i….
- 9News Straits Times, “Cambodia’s rural students left behind in distance learning”, May 1, 2020, https://www.nst.com.my/world/region/2020/05/589197/cambodias-rural-stud…
- 10Simon Kemp “Digital 2023: Cambodia”, February 13, 2023, https://datareportal.com/reports/digital-2023-cambodia.
- 11After Access, “The Inside Internet Story of Africa, Asia, and Latin America,” May 2018, https://afteraccess.net/wp-content/uploads/After-Access-Website-layout-….
- 12Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (Konrad Adenauer Foundation), “How Digital Tech Can Help Fix Cambodia’s Broken Education and Healthcare Systems,” January 2020, https://www.kas.de/en/web/kambodscha/single-title/-/content/how-digital….
- 13Gerald Flynn and Jazmyn Himel, “School Closures Highlight Inequality in Education as Classes Move Online” Cambodianess, March 23, 2020, https://cambodianess.com/article/school-closures-highlight-inequality-i…
- 14Nick Beresford and Khoun Theara, “Building back better: Cambodia’s post-Covid-19 education system, Southeast Asia Globe, January 22, 2021, https://southeastasiaglobe.com/cambodias-post-covid-19-education/.
- 15Manoj Mathew, “Government to launch Community Tech Centres to boost digital literacy,” Khmer Times, December 2022, https://www.khmertimeskh.com/501200557/government-to-launch-community-t….
|Does the government exercise technical or legal control over internet infrastructure for the purposes of restricting connectivity?||4.004 6.006|
No government shutdowns of internet or mobile access have been documented in Cambodia, although broad provisions in the laws governing the telecommunications sector could provide the government with the power to do so.
In October 2019, Hun Sen instructed the MPTC to address the need for Cambodia to gain direct access to the international internet gateway without relying on Vietnam or Thailand, for national security reasons.1 Three operators constitute Cambodia’s backbone network: Telecom Cambodia, Viettel Cambodia, and CFOCN.2 These operators interconnect with smaller networks, allowing exchanges of information through Wi-Fi, local area network (LAN) lines, or other means. Telecom Cambodia operates under the jurisdiction of the MPTC and the Ministry of Economy and Finance.3
In February 2022, the government announced a delay in the implementation of the highly controversial subdecree on the Establishment of the National Internet Gateway (NIG subdecree), which was adopted in February 2021 (see B3, C2, C5, and C6).4 The NIG subdecree seeks to centralize the government’s control over all incoming and outgoing domestic and international web traffic through a single internet gateway. The government-appointed NIG operators and regulatory authorities, specifically the MPTC and the Telecommunication Regulator Cambodia (TRC), were given monitoring powers.5 The NIG subdecree was not implemented as of the end of the coverage period.
Civil society stakeholders have raised doubts regarding the government’s capacity to implement its ambitious NIG at scale.6
Under Article 7 of the 2015 Law on Telecommunications, the MPTC or other relevant ministries have the authority to order telecommunications providers to “take necessary measures” in undefined circumstances of force majeure. The law separately established an enforcement body of “telecommunications inspection officials” to investigate alleged offenses under the law, with authority to call in support from the armed forces.7 Under the law, these officials can temporarily suspend telecommunications firms’ services and “suspend or fire their staff.”8
- 1Sun Mesa, “Information Minister tells officials to address fake news on Facebook,” Khmer Times, December 18, 2019, https://www.khmertimeskh.com/50671202/information-minister-tells-offici…; Khuon Narim, “Kingdom aiming for direct internet access,” Khmer Times, October 28, 2019, https://www.khmertimeskh.com/50654936/kingdom-aiming-for-direct-interne….
- 2Ministry of Post and Telecommunications (MPTC), “Fact Sheet: Telecommunication Sector,” December 2015, https://www.mptc.gov.kh/public/article/2847.
- 3World Bank, “Cambodia Services Trade: Performance and Regulatory Framework Assessment,” July 2014, http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/806791468015647474/pdf/912430….
- 4Sebastian Stangio, “Cambodia Puts Controversial National Internet Gateway Plan on Hold,” The Diplomat, February 16, 2022 https://thediplomat.com/2022/02/cambodia-puts-controversial-national-in….
- 5CCHR, “Joint statement – CSOs call on the Royal Government of Cambodia to repeal the sub-decree on the establishment of the National Internet Gateway”, February 19, 2021, https://cchrcambodia.org/media/files/press_release/801_jscne_en.pdf
- 6Fiona Kelliher, “Cambodia’s internet gateway debut leaves analysts in the dark, “ Southeast Asia Globe. 15 February 2022, https://southeastasiaglobe.com/cambodias-internet-gateway-leaves-analys…
- 7Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO), “Cambodia's Law on Telecommunications: A Legal Analysis,” March 2016, https://www.licadho-cambodia.org/reports.php?perm=214.
- 8LICADHO, “Cambodia's Law on Telecommunications: A Legal Analysis,” March 2016, https://www.licadho-cambodia.org/reports.php?perm=214.
|Are there legal, regulatory, or economic obstacles that restrict the diversity of service providers?||4.004 6.006|
There has been an increasing diversity of service providers in Cambodia, although some obstacles restricting entry into the market persist. The telecommunications market has become increasingly competitive since it opened to private investment in 2006.1 As of November 2022, there were 42 ISPs and 5 mobile service providers.2
According to the TRC, Metfone, Smart, and Cellcard account for approximately 90 percent of mobile users.3 During the coverage period, Metfone reported having 10 million mobile subscribers,4 Smart Axiata reported 8 million,5 and Cellcard reported 4 million.6
In October 2020, the MPTC suspended or revoked the licenses of 17 telecommunications operators for allegedly inaccurately reporting their revenue.7 In May 2021, the MPTC levied heavy tax penalties against Cambodian ISPs over purported miscalculation of tax revenues since 2017. Some of these penalties were projected to cost millions of dollars, resulting in deterred investment, higher prices for consumers, and the possible collapse of smaller firms.8 In February 2022, the MPTC and the TRC suspended the license of King Technologies, which operates the ISP Opennet, and forbade them from signing up new customers over the company’s purported failure to pay $6.6 million owed to the government.9
- 1World Bank, “Cambodia Services Trade: Performance and Regulatory Framework Assessment,” July 2014, http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/806791468015647474/pdf/912430….
- 2TRC, “Licenses,” accessed May 23, 2023, https://www.trc.gov.kh/licenses/.
- 3Business 2 Business Cambodia, “Telcos and Mobile Devices in Cambodia,” March 25, 2023, https://www.b2b-cambodia.com/articles/telcos-and-mobile-devices-in-camb….
- 4Metfone, “Why Chose Metfone,” accessed May 23, 2023, https://www.metfone.com.kh/en.
- 5Smart Axiata, “About Smart,” accessed May 23, 2023, https://www.smart.com.kh/more/corporate-information/about-smart/.
- 6CellCard, “About CellCard,” accessed May 23, 2023, https://www.cellcard.com.kh/en/about-us/.
- 7See e.g., Khorn Savi, “National Police orders closure of online gambling operations” Phnom Penh Post, June 28, 2020, https://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/national-police-orders-closure-o…; Vaughan O’Grady, “Cambodian ministry penalises 17 operators” Developing Telecoms, October 26, 2020, https://www.developingtelecoms.com/telecom-business/telecom-regulation/…; Sok Chan, “Telecoms operators have their licences revoked” Khmer Times, October 21, 2020, https://www.khmertimeskh.com/50775084/telecoms-operators-have-their-lic…; Khmer Times, “Six online gaming sites blocked by Cambodian authorities, July 1, 2020, https://www.khmertimeskh.com/50739956/six-online-gaming-sites-blocked-b….
- 8Husain Haider, “Netizens could end up paying fines dating back years: ISPs”, Khmer Times, May 5, 2021 https://www.khmertimeskh.com/50851318/netizens-could-end-up-paying-fine….
- 9Meng Seavmey, “Government Bans Opennet from Taking on New Customers over $6.6 Million Debt,” Cambodianess, February 22, 2022 https://cambodianess.com/article/government-bans-opennet-from-taking-on…
|Do national regulatory bodies that oversee service providers and digital technology fail to operate in a free, fair, and independent manner?||0.000 4.004|
Cambodia’s regulatory body lacks independence, notably due to provisions contained in the 2015 Law on Telecommunications and the NIG subdecree.
The TRC is the main regulatory body for the telecommunications sector in Cambodia. Its objective is ostensibly to regulate the operations of telecommunications networks and services in order to “promote fair, efficient, and transparent competition” in Cambodia.1 Although the TRC proclaims itself to be an autonomous public entity, the Law on Telecommunications significantly undermined its independence by granting the MPTC ultimate authority over the regulator in a relationship that lacks transparency.2 The TRC’s lack of independence was demonstrated in the blocks of several news sites ahead of the July 2023 election (see B1).3
- 1TRC, “About Us: Background,” accessed January 21, 2020, https://www.trc.gov.kh/about-us/background/.
- 2Sithi, “Law on Telecommunications,” accessed September 20, 2020, http://www.sithi.org/temp.php?url=law_detail.php&lg=&id=277.
- 3Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association, “Government advances censorship of critical news sites in the lead-up to national elections,” July 18, 2023, https://www.camboja.net/government-advances-censorship-of-critical-news… ; Jack Brook, “Cambodia internet providers told to block independent broadcaster,” Asia Nikkei, February 20, 2023, Cambodia internet providers told to block independent broadcaster - Nikkei Asia..
|Does the state block or filter, or compel service providers to block or filter, internet content, particularly material that is protected by international human rights standards?||4.004 6.006|
News and other websites are periodically blocked in Cambodia, particularly those that disseminate information that could be perceived as a threat to the ruling government. The NIG increases the risk that more websites and content will be blocked in the future (see A3 and B3).
In July 2023, after the coverage period, the government ordered the blocking of the news outlets RFA and Cambodia Daily and the public information portal Kamnotra. The order came in the week before the general election, stating that the blocked outlets’ reporting could “make confusion, affect the government’s honor and prestige, and fail to govern the operating conditions of the Information Ministry.”1
In June 2023, after the coverage period, Hun Sen threatened to block Cambodians’ access to Facebook and urged users to migrate to other platforms.2 The statements, issued ahead of the July 2023 elections, came after Meta’s Oversight Board recommended that his Facebook and Instagram accounts be suspended for six months for using language that could incite violence.3
In February 2023, the TRC ordered ISPs to block the English- and Khmer-language news sites belonging to VOD. The blocks came after Hun Sen ordered the revocation of the license of VOD’s parent organization (see B2 and B6).4 The websites remained inactive at the end of the coverage period for some users.5 News outlets perceived as less critical of the government were not blocked ahead of the July 2023 elections. Ahead of the 2018 polls, the government similarly ordered the temporary blocking of 17 websites, including the Phnom Penh Post, Voice of America (VOA), and VOD for 48 hours.6
In the immediate wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cambodian government reportedly blocked access to news sites. In March 2020, Monoroom.info, a Khmer-language news site based in France, was blocked after it published numerous articles on the impact of the coronavirus in Cambodia.7 The site was accessible as of April 2021.8 The TRC blocked two websites owned by news outlet TVFB in April 2020 after the outlet’s media license was cancelled and its editor was arrested (see B2);9 the websites appeared to be inactive at the end of the coverage period.
Websites hosting pornography or sexually explicit images are subject to blocking in Cambodia under the Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation.10 The government banned online gambling in 2019, citing concerns that the industry was being used for criminal extortion.11 The TRC blocked 79 online gambling websites in November 2021 and 123 such websites in January 2022.12
Social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter were freely available during the coverage period.13
- 1Lors Liblib and Noeurn Davin, “Cambodian Government Blocks News Sites Before Unopposed Election,” Voice of America, July 21, 2023, https://www.voacambodia.com/amp/cambodian-government-blocks-news-sites-….
- 2Joel Guinto, “Cambodia PM threatens Facebook ban after posts ruled violent,” BBC, June 30, 2023, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-66062752.
- 3Grant Peck and Sopheng Cheng, “Oversight board recommends Facebook suspend Cambodian premier’s account for violent language,” Associated Press, June 29, 2023, https://apnews.com/article/hun-sen-facebook-violence-speech-meta-instag…
- 4Jack Brook, “Cambodia internet providers told to block independent broadcaster,” Asia Nikkei, February 20, 2023, https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/Cambodia-internet-providers-told-to-bl…;
- 5OONI Explorer, July 24, 2023, https://explorer.ooni.org/chart/mat?probe_cc=KH&since=2023-02-01&until=….
- 6Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), “CPJ condemns pre-election news censorship in Cambodia,” July 2018, https://cpj.org/x/73ae.
- 7Reporters Sans Frontières (Reporters Without Borders) (RSF), “Cambodia: Hun Sen uses COVID-19 crisis to tighten his grip,” 6 May 2020, https://rsf.org/en/news/cambodia-hun-sen-uses-covid-19-crisis-tighten-h….
- 8Monoroom, “វិធីបើកគេហទំព័រ មនោរម្យ.អាំងហ្វូ ដែលរាំងខ្ទប់ នៅក្នុងប្រទេសកម្ពុជា [How to open Monoroom website blocked in Cambodia],” April 10, 2020, https://monoroom.info/uncat/how-to-open-monoroom-info-website-blocked-i….
- 9Hun Sirivadh, “News Site Blocked, Journalist Jailed After Quoting Hun Sen,” Voice of Democracy (VOD), April 9, 2020, https://vodenglish.news/news-site-blocked-journalist-jailed-after-quoti….
- 10Michael Dickison, “Ministry Seeking to Curb Sexual Images Online,” Cambodia Daily, October 25, 2016, https://english.cambodiadaily.com/news/ministry-seeking-curb-sexual-ima….
- 11Prak Chan Thul, “Thousands lose jobs, casinos shut as Cambodia bans online gambling,” Reuters, December 31, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-cambodia-gambling/thousands-lose-job….
- 12Sopheak Khoun, “គេហទំព័រចំនួន ៧៩ ដែលផ្តល់សេវាលេងល្បែង ស៊ីសងខុសច្បាប់តាមអនឡាញ ត្រូវបានបិទខ្ទប់,” Kampuchea Thmey Daily, November 16, 2021, https://www.kampucheathmey.com/local-news/232133; Mom Kunthear, “Authorities take down gambling websites,” Phnom Penh Post, January 29, 2022, https://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/authorities-take-down-gambling-w….
- 13Simon Kemp, “Digital 2023: Cambodia,” February 13, 2023 https://datareportal.com/reports/digital-2023-cambodia
|Do state or nonstate actors employ legal, administrative, or other means to force publishers, content hosts, or digital platforms to delete content, particularly material that is protected by international human rights standards?||1.001 4.004|
The amount of online content removed at the behest of state or nonstate actors remains difficult to assess, as the process is unofficial and nontransparent. Content was removed following government pressure or user complaints during the coverage period, and the government revoked the licenses of online media outlets in apparent retaliation for their content (see B6).
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, “fake news” allegations became the standard for cracking down on dissent or criticism of the government. In July 2022, the Ministry of Information’s Fake News Monitoring Committee said it had investigated 1,376 cases in the first half of the year.1 The committee reportedly responds to reports by warning people of misconduct, filing lawsuits, revoking or suspending media licenses, and seeking to restrict content or accounts responsible.2 In December 2021, the committee announced that it had recorded 1,938 instances that year, including 1,023 that it said were meant to provoke criticism of the government, 809 cases of insults to King Norodom Sihamoni and political leaders, and 106 deemed to cause social chaos. Most of this content was posted to social platforms.3 The government reported documenting 1,343 cases of purportedly false or “objectionable” news from social media posts throughout all of 2020.4
The government regularly revokes the licenses of online news outlets following their reporting, sometimes also requiring the news sites to remove online content (see B6). In February 2023, the government revoked the media operating license of VOD’s parent organization, the Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM), effectively shutting down VOD—one of the country’s last independent news outlets—and blocking its website over its reporting on Hun Manet’s role in the government. Before the website was blocked (see B1), the platform publicly apologized and removed the article.5 In April 2021, the Ministry of Information similarly revoked the media license of online news outlet K01 TV after it posted several videos that allegedly criticized the government’s coronavirus response. Hun Sen asked the outlet to delete the videos and forced the publishers to issue an apology.6
In March 2023, the government threatened legal action against CamboJa News if it did not correct alleged misrepresentations in their reporting on the government’s revocation of three Khmer-language news outlets’ licenses earlier that month (see B6). CamboJa News modified the article in response.7
Arresting and subsequently forcing individuals to make public apologies in lieu of criminal charges is a common tactic the government uses in response to dissent or opinions it considers unfavorable. For instance, in June 2022, the Phnom Penh Municipal Police summoned a Facebook user after he posted allegedly false information about the police. The police forced him to apologize publicly for “damaging the honor of the police” and retract the post.8 In September 2021, a TikTok user was arrested and forced to film a videotaped apology for allegedly insulting traffic police in Phnom Penh in a video that has since been removed.9
The Cambodian authorities also regularly attempt to prevent content from being published online by threatening anyone who takes pictures or videos of incidents to raise awareness of government wrongdoing or human rights abuses.10 In January 2023, authorities questioned CSOs for posting of the music video of “Workers Blood,” a song performed by rapper Kea Sokun marking the nine-year anniversary of deadly police crackdown on a peaceful garment worker protest in Phnom Penh.11 Authorities alleged the video contributed to social disorder and threatened legal action against the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) if it was not deleted. At least three CSOs, including LICADHO, removed the video from social media to avoid legal action.12 Sou Senghak of Samarakot News was physically assaulted by an army officer in the district of Choam Ksan, after observing the possibly illegal transportation of timber; the journalist then filed a complaint with authorities. Both parties agreed to resolve the matter out of court, averting a lawsuit, in August 2022; as part of that agreement, the news outlet retracted a story on the incident.13
- 1Vuon Dara, “‘Fake news’ committee logs nearly 1,400 cases in first half,” The Phnom Penh Post, July 6, 2022, https://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/fake-news-committee-logs-nearly-….
- 2“Ministry tackles fake news, incitement, lese-majeste,” Phnom Penh Post, 05 August 2021,https://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/ministry-tackles-fake-news-incit…
- 3Phak Seangly, “Info ministry found nearly 2000 cases of fake news since January” Phnom Penh Post, December 19, 2021 https://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/info-ministry-found-nearly-2000-…; Mom Kunthear, “ PM urges media to fight fake news” Phnom Penh Post, January 13, 2022, https://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/pm-urges-media-fight-fake-news.
- 4See e.g., Taing Rinith, “Fighting fake news in Cambodia and Malaysia amid COVID-19,” Khmer Times, December 10, 2020, https://www.khmertimeskh.com/50791452/fighting-fake-news-in-cambodia-an…; Voun Dara, “More than 1,000 cases of fake, objectionable news identified,” Phnom Penh Post, January 19, 2021, https://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/more-1000-cases-fake-objectionab….
- 5Ry Sochan, “VOD’s media license revoked,” Phnom Penh Post, February 13, 2023, https://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/vods-media-licence-revoked; Luke Hunt, “Cambodian PM shuts independent news outlet,” Union of Catholic Asian News, February 13, 2023, https://www.ucanews.com/news/cambodian-pm-shuts-independent-news-outlet….
- 6Freshnews, "Ministry of Information released letter to announce to shut down KO1 TV online" (10, April, 2021), http://www.freshnewsasia.com/index.php/en/localnews/193183-2021-04-10-0…
- 7Son Minea, “CamboJa in trouble for misreporting Info Ministry’s decision-making, Khmer Times, March 21, 2023, https://www.khmertimeskh.com/501258640/camboja-in-trouble-for-misreport….
- 8Khmer Times ‘’Phnom Penh Facebook user apologizes for damaging honor of police, 28 June 2022, https://www.khmertimeskh.com/501102759/phnom-penh-facebook-user-apologi…
- 9“Public apology from social media user who ‘undermined the honor and dignity of the National Police Force,” Khmer Times, September 1, 2023, https://www.khmertimeskh.com/501143118/public-apology-from-social-media…’.
- 10See, for example: CCIM, “CCIM and CamboJA Statement: End threats and persecution against independent journalists,” June 21, 2021, https://ccimcambodia.org/?p=5651; Pa Sokheng, “Journalist alleges threats after filming traffic police taking money,” VOD, 14 April 2022, https://vodenglish.news/journalist-alleges-threats-after-filming-traffi…; Lay Sopheavotey and Teng Yalirozy, “ Press freedom in Cambodia deteriorated in the last few years,” Cambodianess, May 2, 2022, https://cambodianess.com/article/press-freedom-in-cambodia-deteriorated…..
- 11Jack Brook and Phin Rathana, “Video goes viral after Cambodia tries to silence popular rapper,” Al Jazeera, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/1/23/video-goes-viral-after-cambodi…; “Veng Sreng Violence,” January 3, 2022, Licadho, https://www.licadho-cambodia.org/tag/veng_sreng_violence#:~:text=On%203…..
- 12Mech Dara, ‘’Rights groups takes down rap video citing police’s legal threat’’, VOD, January 10 2022 https://vodenglish.news/rights-group-takes-down-rap-video-citing-police…; Sovann Sreypich; Phon Sotthyroth, ‘’Workers Blood rap video removed from NGO Licadho’s Faceebook, website after police threatened legal action’’, CamboJA News, 10 January 2019 https://cambojanews.com/workers-blood-rap-video-removed-from-ngos-faceb…; “Veng Sreng Violence,” January 3, 2022, Licadho, https://www.licadho-cambodia.org/tag/veng_sreng_violence#:~:text=On%203…..
- 13Seoung Nimol and Try Thaney, “Preah Vihear journalist assaulted by military commander,” CamboJa News, August 22, 2022, https://cambojanews.com/preah-vihear-journalist-assaulted-by-military-c….
|Do restrictions on the internet and digital content lack transparency, proportionality to the stated aims, or an independent appeals process?||1.001 4.004|
The government’s restrictions on internet content lack transparency, are vaguely defined, and lack adequate judicial oversight. The MPTC can order ISPs to block websites at the request of other government departments. Implementation of censorship is nontransparent, apparently based on informal communications between government officials and service providers. There is limited avenue for appeal.
The NIG subdecree, adopted in February 2021, grants the government sweeping powers to restrict and block access to digital content (see A3). NIG operators are obligated to collaborate with the MPTC to block or disconnect network connections that affect “safety, social order, dignity, culture, or traditions.” If NIG operators or ISPs fail to comply with these broad conditions, they could incur a range of steep financial penalties and even have their licenses suspended or revoked.1 Although the implementation of the infrastructure for the NIG was delayed, the government still underscores its plans to move forward with its installation (see A3).
In February 2020, the Ministry of Information confirmed that a government “commission” monitors Cambodian media, including social media platforms. The commission operates under the legal authorization of a May 2018 interministerial Prakas (Proclamation) on Website and Social Media Control. If the commission deems online content to be unfit for publication or to contain false information, it will either force the publisher to remove the post or take legal action.
The government underscored its commitment to tightening its media-licensing regime during the coverage period. In September 2022, the Ministry of Information announced that it will apply greater scrutiny to online publications’ journalistic ethics, dissemination of information that is considered false, and organizational structure and scale when issuing media licenses.2 Several news outlets have already had licenses revoked (see B2).
In September 2022, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MoWA) announced plans to develop social media code of ethics to curb the posting of “provocative” and “immoral” images and videos by online users, particularly women. MoWA intends to partner with the MPTC to curb content violating the code of conduct.3 MoWA’s plans for implementation were not released by the end of the coverage period.
In August 2019, the government threatened to revoke the licenses of or shut down online news outlets purportedly spreading false information that threatened national security.4 Those that the government deems violate their license conditions can be ordered to remove offending content or post corrections.
In April 2020, the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts created the Disciplinary and Accolade Council to track “illicit content” online. 5
- 1HRW, “Cambodia: Internet Censorship, Control Expanded,” February 18, 2021, https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/02/18/cambodia-internet-censorship-contro….
- 2Chhun Sunly, “MoI to restrict issuing online media licences,” Khmer Times, September 2, 2022, https://www.khmertimeskh.com/501143344/moi-to-restrict-issuing-online-m….
- 3Yim Sreylin, ‘’Government plans social media code of ethics’’, Khmer Times, September 23 2022, https://www.khmertimeskh.com/501156218/government-plans-social-media-co…
- 4Ly Livsier, “Ministry to Revoke Licenses of Media over Fake News.” Khmer Times, August 13, 2019. https://www.khmertimeskh.com/632885/ministry-to-revoke-licences-of-medi…; Sheith Khidhir, “Fake News from Cambodia's Government?” ASEAN Post, August 19, 2019, https://theaseanpost.com/article/fake-news-cambodias-government.
- 5Sen David, “Online Seller Makes Public Apology for 'Sexy' Selling Techniques,” Khmer Times, February 20, 2020, https://www.khmertimeskh.com/50692775/online-seller-makes-public-apolog….
|Do online journalists, commentators, and ordinary users practice self-censorship?||1.001 4.004|
Self-censorship online among journalists, activists, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), unionists, and ordinary users is widespread and has reportedly increased in recent years. A clampdown on civil society has created an environment in which NGOs have increasingly self-censored, restricted, or even completely ceased their activities online.
A poll of journalists and media outlets conducted by the CCIM and released in March 2022 noted that journalists fear reporting on sensitive issues because of repressive laws and regulations (see B5 and C2). The poll found that 72 percent of respondents are concerned with reporting on political issues, 64 percent are concerned about reporting on human rights abuses, and 61 percent are concerned about reporting on impunity cases.1 Additionally, 64 percent of respondents reported that they practiced self-censorship due to the political environment.2 Journalists have avoided reporting on sensitive issues including Hun Sen and his family, land disputes, corruption, drug trafficking, and political issues due to legal action, harassment, and intimidation by authorities (see C3 and C7).3
The government’s continued repression of dissenting voices and focus on the spread of purportedly false news4 were accompanied by an increase in online surveillance, as well as a rise in prosecutions linked to online speech. Arrests under COVID-19 legislation exacerbated Cambodians’ fears for their safety if they expressed opinions about the pandemic online (see C3).5 These factors have contributed to increased self-censorship. According to a 2021 survey conducted by the Cambodia Fundamental Freedoms Monitor Project (FFMP), only 47 percent of respondents felt free to speak on social media.”6 Additionally, 36 percent of NGOs and trade union leaders polled felt unsafe sharing information through social media.7 One-tenth of respondents reported they “always” avoided saying what they wanted to in public or online for fear of retaliation and 17 percent stated they “regularly” felt like they need to self-censor. 8
- 1Cambodian Center for Independent Media, “Challenges for Independent Media in Cambodia 2021,” accessed March 15, 2022, p. 12 https://ccimcambodia.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/CCIM_Challenges-for….
- 2Id. p. 13.
- 3Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), The State of Freedom of Expression, Press Freedom and Access to Information in Cambodia Annual Report: 1 September 2021 – 31 August 2022, https://cchrcambodia.org/admin/media/report/report/english/CCHR_Report%…
- 4Ly Livsier, “Ministry to Revoke Licenses of Media over Fake News.” Khmer Times, August 13, 2019. https://www.khmertimeskh.com/632885/ministry-to-revoke-licences-of-medi….
- 5VOD, “Some people are worried about safety and do not dare to comment on COVID-19”, May 18, 2021, https://vodkhmer.news/2021/05/18/cambodia-people-worry-about-to-speak-o…
- 6Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), “Cambodia Fundamental Freedoms Monitor: Sixth Annual Report January-December 2021” accessed May 12, 2022 p. 72, https://cchrcambodia.org/index_old.php?url=media/media.php&p=report_det….
- 7Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), “Cambodia Fundamental Freedoms Monitor: Sixth Annual Report January-December 2021” accessed May 12, 2022 p. 84, https://cchrcambodia.org/index_old.php?url=media/media.php&p=report_det….
- 8Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), “Cambodia Fundamental Freedoms Monitor: Sixth Annual Report January-December 2021” accessed May 12, 2022 p. 73, https://cchrcambodia.org/index_old.php?url=media/media.php&p=report_det….
|Are online sources of information controlled or manipulated by the government or other powerful actors to advance a particular political interest?||2.002 4.004|
The spread of disinformation and misinformation has been a growing concern in recent years. A 2020 report from the Oxford Internet Institute noted the presence of coordinated cybertroop teams that manipulate information on social media on behalf of government agencies, politicians and parties, and citizens and influencers.1 The teams work to support progovernment messaging, attack the opposition, and spread disinformation.
In July 2023, RFA reported that the CPP’s Cyber War Room, operated by Hun Manet, was coordinating pro-CPP disinformation on social media ahead of that month’s elections. The War Room leaders allegedly ordered supporters and government officials to post Facebook messages attacking CSOs and independent media outlets critical of the government.2
In December 2021, when over 1,000 union members began their weekslong protest after losing employment with the prominent casino company Nagaworld, suspicious Facebook accounts surfaced and were used to accuse the protesters of staging a “color revolution” and of having foreign influence. One of the Facebook accounts, known as “Brave Women Volunteers,” had only 100 friends and a single post from the day before the accusations were disseminated. These claims were also shared by progovernment media outlets and an Interior Ministry official.3 The day after the Facebook posts surfaced, the Brave Women Volunteers account disappeared.4
Hun Sen, who has more than 10 million followers on Facebook, has been accused of manipulating his page to create an exaggerated perception of his popularity.5 The Phnom Penh Post alleged that only 20 percent of Hun Sen’s new “likes” in February and March 2016 came from within Cambodia. The rest reportedly came from “click farms” based abroad, in which low-paid workers were employed to like his page.6
The owner of the Phnom Penh Post, a Malaysian businessman, has reportedly interfered with the paper’s editorial independence by demanding the removal of an article detailing his links to the Cambodian government from its website. The incident compelled 13 journalists and editors to resign and led to the firing of the paper’s chief editor in 2018.7
The government has also conducted disinformation campaigns against the CNRP. In November 2019, for example, online news outlet Coda Story reported that opposition supporters were forced to make videos “confessing” that they helped Sam Rainsy, the party’s former leader, attempt to return from self-imposed exile.8 In at least one case, a video was shared by progovernment news outlet Fresh News to its Facebook page.
- 1Oxford Internet Institute (OII), “Industrialized Disinformation: 2020 Global Inventory of Organised Social Media Manipulation,” 2021, https://demtech.oii.ox.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/sites/127/2021/02/Cyber…
- 2Neou Vannarin, “ក្រុមវាយប្រហារតាមអ៊ីនធឺណិតបក្សកាន់អំណាចកំពុងពង្រឹងសកម្មភាពតាមអុកឡុកបន្សាបមតិរិះគន់,” Radio Free Asia, July 3, 2023, https://www.rfa.org/khmer/news/human-rights/cyber-attack-groups-are-int…; Samuel Wooley, “Some of the Worst Troll Armies Are Gaining Ground. Just Look at Cambodia,” New York Times, July 11, 2023, https://www.nytimes.com/2023/07/11/opinion/cambodia-elections-hun-sen-h….
- 3Anaanth Baliga and Danielle Keeton-Olsen, “NagaWorld Union Demands Investigation Into Foreign Influence Allegations, Official Says Strike Is Color Revolution,” VOD, December 19, 2021, https://vodenglish.news/nagaworld-union-demands-investigation-into-fore…
- 4Ouch Sony and Danielle Keeton-Olsen, “Color Revolution, Foreign Influence Accusations Cloud NagaWrold Strike,” VOD, December 20, 2021, https://vodenglish.news/color-revolution-foreign-influence-accusations-…
- 5Ben Paviour and Kuch Naren, “Live From Facebook, It’s Prime Minister Hun Sen,” Cambodia Daily, June 21, 2016, https://english.cambodiadaily.com/editors-choice/live-from-facebook-its…; Office of the Council of Ministers, accessed October 1, 2020, http://pressocm.gov.kh/en.
- 6Daniel Nass and Shaun Turton, “Only 20 per cent of PM’s recent Facebook ‘Likes’ from Cambodia,” Phnom Penh Post, March 9, 2016, https://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/only-20-cent-pms-recent-facebook….
- 7CCHR, “Cambodian Civil Society Groups Condemn Ongoing Attacks on Freedom of the Media,” May 2018, https://cchrcambodia.org/index_old.php?title=Cambodian-Civil-Society-Gr….
- 8Andrew Nachemson, “Cambodia Launches Online Disinformation Campaign to Repress Opposition Groups.” Coda Story, November 5, 2019. https://codastory.com/disinformation/cambodia-disinfo-opposition/.
|Are there economic or regulatory constraints that negatively affect users’ ability to publish content online?||2.002 3.003|
Although economic and regulatory constraints generally do not prevent the publication of online content, a number of media outlets with an online presence have shut down due to high taxes. Separately, online outlets are required to obtain licenses, and four of these licenses were revoked due to the outlets’ reporting during the coverage period, which led to some removals of content (see B2).
The government regularly revokes the licenses of online news outlets following their reporting. In February 2023, the Ministry of Information revoked the media operating license of VOD’s parent company for allegedly violating journalistic ethics (see B2).1 The government’s highly politicized decision was strongly condemned by domestic and international CSOs.2
Similarly, in March 2023, the Ministry of Information revoked the media licenses of three Khmer language media outlets—Federation of Cambodia–ASEAN Journalists, Raksmey Kampong Cham, and Dumming Knonh Srok—for alleged ethics violations in reporting related to a senior government official’s role in land fraud.3
During the previous coverage period, the Ministry of Information revoked the media licenses of three news outlets that primarily operated online, the Bayong Times, KCTV, and Cambodia Today, following reporting on government corruption.4
Between September 2020 and August 2021, the Ministry of Information revoked seven media licenses.5 In March 2021, two online news outlets, Youth Techo and Stoeng Charl, had their licenses revoked because the government claimed they had spread false information that would cause social unrest.6 A Ministry of Information employee also had his media license revoked after he uploaded a picture on his Facebook page of what he erroneously thought was a body of a deceased COVID-19 patient. He took the post down but was later fired.7 Also in March 2021, a popular social media publisher lost his media license after posting a video exposing monks in Siem Reap physically beating junior monks.8
- 1Ry Sochan, “VOD’s media license revoked, Phnom Penh Post, February 13, 2023, https://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/vods-media-licence-revoked
- 2“RSF joins press freedom and civil society organisations in condemning Cambodian government’s decision to revoke independent media VOD’s licence,” Reporters Without Borders, July 24, 2023, https://rsf.org/en/rsf-joins-press-freedom-and-civil-society-organisati….
- 3Khuon Narim, “Information Ministry Revokes Three Media Licenses Following Reports on Senior Official’s Role in Land Fraud,” Cambodian Journalist Alliance Association, March 2023, https://cambojanews..com/information-ministry-revokes-three-media-licen…
- 4Nat Sopheap, “Information Ministry Revokes Licenses for Three Digital Publications,” VOD, March 16, 2022, https://vodenglish.news/information-ministry-revokes-licenses-for-three…
- 5CCHR, “The state of freedom of expression, press freedom, and access to information in Cambodia: Annual Report 1 September 2020 – 31 August 2021,” April 2022, https://cchrcambodia.org/admin/media/report/report/english/CCHR_Annual%….
- 6Nath Sopheap, "Ministry revokes two media licenses on grounds of serious professional abuse," VOD, March 26, 2021 https://vodkhmer.news/2021/03/26/ministry-of-information-revokes-licens…
- 7Khy Sovuthy, "Information Ministry advisor stripped of position news outlet license," CamboJA, March 15, 2021, https://cambojanews.com/information-ministry-advisor-stripped-of-positi…
- 8Sun Narin, "Online publication shut down for criticizing monk beatings in Siem Reap," (VOA, 19 March 2021) https://www.voacambodia.com/a/online-publication-shut-down-for-criticiz…;
|Does the online information landscape lack diversity and reliability?||2.002 4.004|
Score Change: The score declined from 3 to 2 because the revocation of the media licenses of four news publications, including that of Voice of Democracy, marked a significant decline in the availability of independent news.
The diversity of the online environment is undermined by the government’s censorship of critical voices and independence media. Authorities shut down radio stations and newspapers in 2017 and during the run-up to the 2018 and 2023 elections. The internet has become one of the main sources of news and information for Cambodians, and social media has allowed the proliferation of more diverse content that is free from government influence.1 Many Cambodians turn to Facebook, RFA, VOA, VOD (before its license revocation), and CamboJa News as key news sources. The Southeast Asia Globe and ASEAN Today are also independent news sources based in Cambodia.2
As of July 2023, VOD’s Khmer news site had more than 1.8 million followers on Facebook.3 RFA’s Khmer-language Facebook page had more than 7.5 million followers,4 and VOA Khmer had more than 7.8 million,5 making them some of Cambodia’s most-visited Facebook pages.6 In contrast, Fresh News, an outlet closely associated with the government, had over 4.4 million followers.7 Similarly, the Khmer-language Facebook pages of the progovernment Khmer Times8 and Phnom Penh Post9 respectively had 38,000 and 128,000 followers.
However, the limited number of independent media outlets remaining has affected the diversity of content online, and has increased self-censorship (see B1, B4, and B6).10 Media ownership is highly concentrated, and several major media outlets are affiliated with the ruling CPP. Ahead of the July 2023 general election, the information environment was further constrained. In February and March 2023, the government revoked the licenses of the CCIM and three Khmer-language news sites (see B6). In July 2023, after the coverage period, the websites and social media pages of RFA were temporarily blocked by some providers (see B1).11
In the leadup to the July 2023 polls, misinformation related to Hun Sen and Hun Manet spread online.12 The presence of misinformation in Cambodia likely acutely impacts Indigenous communities, in part due to limited digital literacy and a lack of reliable information in Indigenous languages.13
- 1Paul Millar, “How leaks, lies, and fake news took over politics,” Southeast Asia Globe, March 7, 2017, https://southeastasiaglobe.com/the-tangled-web-how-leaks-lies-and-fake-….
- 2David Hutt, “The Truth About Hun Sen and the Media in Cambodia,” Diplomat, January 30, 2020, https://thediplomat.com/2020/01/the-truth-about-hun-sen-and-the-media-i….
- 3VOD Khmer, @VODKhmer, Facebook page, accessed July 25, 2023, https://www.facebook.com/VODkhmer/.
- 4RFA Khmer, @rfacambodia, Facebook page, accessed July 25, 2023, https://www.facebook.com/rfacambodia/.
- 5VOA Khmer, @voakhmer, Facebook page, accessed July 25, 2023, https://www.facebook.com/voakhmer/.
- 6RSF, “Cambodia: The Independent Press in Ruins,” February 2018, https://rsf.org/en/news/rsf-publishes-report-media-freedom-under-attack….
- 7Fresh News, @freshnewsasia, Facebook page, accessed July 25, 2023, https://www.facebook.com/freshnewsasia.
- 8Khmer Times Khmer, @KhmerTimesKhmer, Facebook page access July 25, 2023, https://www.facebook.com/KhmerTimesKhmer.
- 9Phnom Penh Post khmer, @PhnompenhPost.News.kh, Facebook page accessed July 25, 2023, https://www.facebook.com/PhnompenhPost.News.kh.
- 10International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), “Cambodia: Controlling election reporting guidelines released,” June 2018, https://www.ifj.org/media-centre/news/detail/category/human-rights/arti…; Pech Sotheary, “Report: Media Freedom ‘Collapsed,’” Khmer Times, February 22, 2018, https://www.khmertimeskh.com/109746/report-media-freedom-collapsed/; RSF, “Cambodia: The Independent Press in Ruins,” February 2018, https://rsf.org/en/news/rsf-publishes-report-media-freedom-under-attack….
- 11RFA Khmer, “Hun Sen’s government orders RFA, other news outlet websites blocked,” July 17, 2023, https://www.rfa.org/english/news/cambodia/media-sites-blocked-071720231….
- 12Jay Udom, “រូបថតលោក ហ៊ុន ម៉ាណែត កាន់ទង់ជាតិវៀតណាម គឺជារូបថតកាត់តតែប៉ុណ្ណោះ,” Fact Crescendo, May 25, 2023, https://cambodia.factcrescendo.com/a-photo-of-cambodian-army-chief-carr…; Kakada Sim, “សំណេរមួយលើហ្វេសប៊ុករបស់រដ្ឋមន្ត្រីព័ត៌មានត្រូវបានកាត់តឱ្យខុសពីខ្លឹមសារដើម,” Fact Crescendo, May 24, 2023, https://cambodia.factcrescendo.com/an-information-ministers-facebook-ca…; Jay Udom, “ព័ត៌មានក្លែងក្លាយមួយថា លោក ហ៊ុន សែន ត្រូវបានបញ្ជូនទៅសង្គ្រោះបន្ទាន់នៅសិង្ហបុរី,” June 24, 2023, https://cambodia.factcrescendo.com/a-false-claim-says-premier-hun-sen-a….
- 13Tuy Engly, ‘’Cambodia’s Indigenous Peoples Struggle with Digital Literacy on Eve of the Elections’’, CamboJA News, 01 March 2023, https://cambojanews.com/cambodias-indigenous-peoples-struggle-with-digi…
|Do conditions impede users’ ability to mobilize, form communities, and campaign, particularly on political and social issues?||4.004 6.006|
Amid heightened restrictions on freedom of assembly, communities, CSOs, and activists have turned to petition websites and social media, particularly Facebook, as platforms for advocacy and to organize assemblies. However, repressive laws, arrests, prosecutions, and increased harassment around digital campaigns have undermined the use of the internet for mobilization (see C2, C3, and C7).
The government’s monitoring of social media and frequent arrests of users for their online political activity have impeded Cambodians’ ability to mobilize and campaign on political issues (see C3 and C5). During the previous coverage period, in September 2021, Hun Sen tapped into a private Zoom call between former CNRP leaders, many of whom live in exile, to warn them that he had been monitoring them and to warn them against continuing their “disruptive activities.” He then stated that approximately 20 of their phone calls had been tapped.1 In October 2020, authorities threatened at least six journalists reporting on protests coinciding with the anniversary of the Paris Peace Agreements, which marked the end of the civil war; the journalists were told to stop shooting live footage and to surrender their phones and cameras.2
Users have mobilized through social media and online petitions to draw attention to issues including the electoral process, environmental justice, and gender equality. In August 2022, Cambodians expressed outrage on Facebook around the large-scale deforestation of Phnom Tamao forest.3 Hun Sen subsequently canceled land-development permits and ordered a reforestation of the area, citing requests from government officials.4 CSOs have used online petitions to call on the government to protect women's rights to assemble and to refrain from violently responding to their involvement in demonstrations, including through the use of sexual harassment.5
Throughout the coverage period, CSOs drafted several joint statements, open letters, and recommendations to the government on a range of issues, including the revocation of VOD’s license,6 gender-based violence against women journalists,7 and freedom of expression more broadly.8
- 1Paul Eckert, “Cambodia PM Says He Crashed Opposition Zoom Talk to Warn ‘Rebels’,” Radio Free Asia, September 16, 2021, https://www.rfa.org/english/news/cambodia/hunsen-zoom-09162021191746.ht…
- 2Camboja, “Journalists continue to be persecuted while on duty,” October 23, 2020, https://www.camboja.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/23_10_23_Statements_…; Tran Techseng, “Rights Monitors, Journalists Threatened Over Taking Photos at Rally”, VOD October 26, 2020 https://vodenglish.news/rights-monitors-journalists-threatened-over-tak…
- 3“Phnom Tamao Forest Saved from Developers,” Wildlife Alliance, accessed on July 14, 2023, https://www.wildlifealliance.org/phnom-tamao-forest-saved/.
- 4“Flash Info | Five Journalists, Four Activists Detained at Phnom Tamao Forest,” Licadho, August 16, 2022, https://www.licadho-cambodia.org/flashnews.php?perm=318.
- 5CCHR, “JOINT STATEMENT: Authorities must immediately stop using violence and arbitrary application of laws against peaceful women strikers,” February 2022, https://cchrcambodia.org/index_old.php?title=Authorities-must-immediate…; CCHR, “Joint Statement: Stop escalating crackdown on LRSU strikers,” March 25, 2022, https://cchrcambodia.org/media/files/press_release/878_seol2_en.pdf..
- 6CSOs Joint Statement: Media and civil society groups deeply disturbed by government’s decision to revoke VOD’s media license and the sexual harassment of a female reporter, February 13 2023, https://sithi.org/publications/2023-02-14-joint-statement-media-and-civ…
- 7CSOs Joint Statement, ‘’Request to take immediate action against Mr. Pheng Vannak, Director of Pheng Vannak News for using misogynistic language and verbal harassment against a women journalist, February 14, 2023, https://twitter.com/cchrcambodia/status/1625665895363416064/photo/1
- 8Sithi, ‘’Joint Statement World Press Freedom Day’’, May 2, 2023, https://www.sithi.org/publications/2023-05-02-joint-statement-world-pre…
|Do the constitution or other laws fail to protect rights such as freedom of expression, access to information, and press freedom, including on the internet, and are they enforced by a judiciary that lacks independence?||1.001 6.006|
Although some articles in the constitution guarantee freedom of expression, constitutional amendments passed in 2018 undermine these rights, and the legal framework imposes significant restrictions on press freedom and freedom of expression, including online.1
Amendments to the constitution and the criminal code2 adopted in February 2018 restrict fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression online.3 In particular, amendments to Articles 42 and 49 of the constitution state that individuals and political parties should only conduct activities that uphold Cambodia’s “national interest.”4 The broad, vague wording of the amendments leaves them open to abuse, as any legitimate online discourse could be deemed unconstitutional if it ostensibly impacts the national interest.
In April 2020, the government passed the Law on the Management of the Nation in a State of Emergency to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. This law empowers the government to monitor information online, ban or restrict news and media sharing, and implement other measures it deems necessary.5
A 2019 draft Law on Access to Information6 contained protections for whistleblowers and had the potential to positively impact free expression online if approved and enforced. However, an updated draft released in August 2019 raised concerns about the law’s adherence to international human rights standards,7 as well as its use of broad and unclear standards that could threaten access of information and freedom of expression.8 For example, the law narrowly defines the type of information and institutions it applies to; lacks effective oversight procedures; permits public authorities to deny disclosure in various overly broad situations; and contains a criminal libel and defamation provision.9 While the law was reportedly in the final review stage in November 2021,10 the government announced in January 2023 that it would be adopted within two years of the July polls.11
In January 2021, the General Commissariat of the National Police issued a directive barring journalists from filming, recording, or livestreaming ongoing police investigations and other duties performed by the police.12 If journalists are found to be in violation of this decree, authorities can take legal action against them under the Press Law. Three days before this directive was established, the information minister threatened journalists who took photos and covered news related to authorities in “prohibited areas.”13 The new directive is vaguely worded and open to broad interpretation, whereby journalists could be arrested for undertaking legitimate reporting and investigative activities.
Other directives have been presented in provinces outside of Phnom Penh. In November 2021, Kampot governor Mao Thonin ordered the provincial information department to increase its monitoring of journalists. Journalists were also required to report to that department before reporting on issues within Kampot. Following public outcry, the information minister called the directive “wrong” and warned that it may violate Article 40 of the constitution.14
- 1Constitutional Council of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Decision No. 092/003/2007, July 10, 2007;Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Unofficial Translation Supervised by the Constitutional Council, March 2010, https://www.wipo.int/edocs/lexdocs/laws/en/kh/kh009en.pdf; “Draft Penal Code Amendment related to Lèse-majesté and Constitutional Amendments Promulgated,” Fresh News, March 3, 2018, http://en.freshnewsasia.com/index.php/en/7748-2018-03-03-05-59-30.html.
- 2Andrew Nachemson and Mech Dara, “Updated: Lèse Majesté Law Among Changes to Cambodia’s Constitution and Penal Code,” Phnom Penh Post, February 2, 2018, https://www.phnompenhpost.com/national-politics/updated-lese-majeste-la….
- 3Niem Chheng and Andrew Nachemson, “Lèse majesté law now in effect,” Phnom Penh Post, March 5, 2018, https://www.phnompenhpost.com/national-politics/lese-majeste-law-now-ef…; 64 ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, “Joint Statement: Organizations call for outright rejection of draft amendments to the Constitution and Criminal Code,” February 21, 2018, https://aseanmp.org/2018/02/21/joint-statement-outright-rejection-of-dr… of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), “UN experts say constitutional changes in Cambodia impinge on democracy,” February 2018, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22674….
- 4“Draft Penal Code Amendment related to Lèse-majesté and Constitutional Amendments Promulgated,” Fresh News, March 3, 2018, http://en.freshnewsasia.com/index.php/en/7748-2018-03-03-05-59-30.html.
- 5Randle DeFalco, “Opportunism, COVID-19, and Cambodia’s State of Emergency Law,” Just Security, August 3, 2020, https://www.justsecurity.org/71194/opportunism-covid-19-and-cambodias-s….
- 6Daphne Chen, “Draft of long-awaited access-to-information law unveiled,” Phnom Penh Post, February 1, 2018, https://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/draft-long-awaited-access-inform….
- 7Human Rights Watch (HRW), “Cambodia: Access to Information Bill Falls Short,” December 2019, www.hrw.org/news/2019/12/11/cambodia-access-information-bill-falls-short.
- 8ARTICLE 19, “Cambodia: Analysis of the Draft Law on Access to Information,” December 10, 2019, www.article19.org/resources/cambodia-analysis-of-the-draft-law-on-acces….
- 9Article 19, ‘Cambodia: Analysis of the Draft Law on Access to Information’ December 10, 2019 https://www.article19.org/resources/cambodia-analysis-of-the-draft-law-…
- 10Sar Socheath, ‘Information access draft law in final stage and to be expedited,’ Khmer Times, November 5, 2021, https://www.khmertimeskh.com/50965262/information-access-draft-law-in-f…
- 11Khuon Narim, ‘’Prime Minister Claims Access to Information Law will be approved after elections’’, CamboJA News, January 17 2023, https://cambojanews.com/prime-minister-claims-access-to-information-law…
- 12See e.g., Buth Reaksmey Kongkea, “Journalists barred from filming or recording police investigations,” Khmer Times, January 25, 2021, https://www.khmertimeskh.com/50806487/journalists-barred-from-filming-o…; Khy Sovuthy, “Reporters remain unclear on scope of police powers in new directive on interference by media,” Camboja, February 6, 2021, https://cambojanews.com/reporters-remain-unclear-on-scope-of-police-pow….
- 13Overseas Press Club of Cambodia, “Open Letter: Journalists Call on Government to Clarify Latest Directive to the Press,” February 5, 2021, https://opc-cambodia.org/blog/2021/02/05/open-letter-journalists-call-o….
- 14Sun Narin and Meas Molika, “Provincial Governor in Cambodia Knocked for Plan to Combat ‘Nonsense News’,” VOA, December 3, 2021, https://www.voacambodia.com/a/provincial-governor-in-cambodia-knocked-f…
|Are there laws that assign criminal penalties or civil liability for online activities, particularly those that are protected under international human rights standards?||1.001 4.004|
While free-expression protections are enshrined in the constitution, expression is nonetheless threatened by provisions of Cambodian law, notably under parts of the criminal code.1
Recently passed laws and pending legislation impose a range of civil liability and criminal penalties. The NIG subdecree—which has yet to be implemented as of May 2023 (see A3)—imposes hefty financial penalties and media license suspension on NIG operators or ISPs who fail to comply with any of the stipulated provisions (see A3 and B3). Fines range from 50 million ($12,220) to 100 million riels ($24,440) for individuals, and from 500 million ($122,200) to one billion riels ($244,400) for legal entities. The NIG subdecree also includes a vague catch-all penalty clause, which subjects any natural or legal person to punishment under “applicable laws” for committing offenses that “affect national security, social order, or national revenue.”2 While the final version of the NIG subdecree added a judicial appeal process, CSOs have noted that the Cambodian judiciary lacks independence.3
In August 2020, the government released the draft Law on Public Order, which restricts freedom of expression online by prohibiting the use of writing, images, and other content on social media that endangers national tradition and dignity.4 The draft law targets women and LGBT+ people by criminalizing wearing clothes that are “too short” or “revealing” in public spaces, including online spaces. Individuals can be fined 100,000 ($24) to 500,000 riels ($122) and imprisoned from one to six days for engaging in prohibited activities.5 The bill had not been passed by the end of the coverage period.
The government’s revised draft Law on Cybercrime—which an August 2020 leak revealed had been heavily revised and broadened in scope—raised alarm from rights groups for its potential to intensify the government’s crackdown on free expression (see C6).6 While the draft law outlaws a few genuine issues such as child sexual abuse imagery, Article 45 permits authorities to fine or imprison persons if they knowingly make or spread a “false statement or disinformation through information technology,” potentially justifying arrests for allegedly false information about national security, public health or safety, relations between Cambodia and other countries, the outcome of a national election, public confidence in the functioning of the government, or other sensitive political issues.7 If passed, the law would impose a prison sentence of two to three years and a fine from 4 million ($950) to 10 million riels ($2,380) for those allegedly spreading disinformation,8 and a one- to six-month prison sentence and a fine of 100,000 ($24) to one million riels ($237) for defamation offenses, online or offline (see C1).9 As of September 2022, the draft was reportedly nearly final.10
Under Article 495 of the criminal code, individuals can be arrested for incitement to disturb public order or affecting the dignity of individuals and public officials—a broadly worded provision that can be used to prosecute online critics of the government.11 Articles 305 and 307,12 which govern defamation and public insult respectively, are frequently used against those engaged in online discourse. Under the criminal code, individuals can also be prosecuted in connection with written documents or pictures that are released online unintentionally or without their consent.13 Those convicted for defamation or public insult can be fined up to $2,500.14 Defamation by media outlets, which is covered in the 1995 Press Law, is punishable with a fine of between $250 to $1,200, and outlets convicted must publish a retraction.15 People can face prison time in connection with online expression under a variety of criminal charges including forgery, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years’ imprisonment, and incitement to disturb social security or discriminate against a person or group, punishable by up to two and three years in prison, respectively.16
A 2018 amendment to the criminal code introduced a lèse-majesté offense (Article 437) that criminalizes defamation of, insults of, and threats against the king. The crime is punishable by between one and five years in prison and a fine of $500 to $2,500. It also applies to media outlets carrying allegedly insulting content.
The 2015 Law on Telecommunications further increased government control over the information and communication technologies (ICT) sector and threatened the rights to privacy and freedom of expression. Using telecommunications to plan criminal activity or damage property can result in a prison sentence of up to six months and fines of up to $8,800. Article 80 punishes the “establishment, installation, and utilization of equipment in the telecommunications sector” leading to “national insecurity” with 7 to 15 years in prison.
The 2015 Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations (LANGO) contains provisions—including Article 24, which requires CSOs to act neutrally toward political parties—that have the potential to restrict freedom of expression, including online.
Article 1 of the current Press Law “assures freedom of the press and freedom of publication in conformity with Articles 31 and 41 of the constitution,” but the law does not explicitly cover online media. The law also allows civil action against broadly defined activities; for example, it restricts content that does not promote “the good custom of society” under Article 14,17 violations of which can incur a fine of between $250 to $1,200.18
In December 2020, the government announced that updates to the Press Law were being drafted, though they were not released as of the end of the coverage period.19
The government has signaled its intent to legislate so-called fake news.20 In March 2019, Hun Sen called on relevant ministries to consider drafting a law.21 Later that year, the Ministry of Information began research to inform new policies related to the dissemination of false news.22
Different articles of the criminal code include charges for “plotting,” “defamation,” “falsifying information,” and “incitement to commit a felony”.23
Article 11 of the March 2021 Law on Measures to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 and other Severe and Dangerous Contagious Diseases24 imposes a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to 20 million riels ($4,760) for “intentionally obstructing” the implementation of COVID-19 measures. Though Article 11 does not explicitly restrict online freedoms, authorities have used this provision to target and silence online speech relating to COVID-19 and vaccines (see C3).25
- 1HRW, “Cambodia: New Penal Code Undercuts Free Speech,” December 2010, https://www.hrw.org/news/2010/12/23/cambodia-new-penal-code-undercuts-f….
- 2Sub-Decree on the Establishment of a National Internet Gateway, Article 17 (2021). HRW, “Cambodia: Internet Censorship, Control Expanded, February 18, 2021, https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/02/18/cambodia-internet-censorship-contro….
- 3HRW, “Cambodia: Internet Censorship, Control Expanded,” February 18, 2021, https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/02/18/cambodia-internet-censorship-contro….
- 4CCHR, “Joint Statement: Draft Law on Public Order Violates Women’s Rights: Discard Draft, Stop Blaming Survivors of Violence,” August 27, 2020, https://cchrcambodia.org/media/files/press_release/774_jsodpodlgfe_en.p…
- 5HRW, “Joint Statement: Civil Society Organizations for the Draft Law on Public Order to be Immediately Discarded,” August 13, 2020, https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/media_2020/08/200813%20CSO%20Jo….
- 6Sun Narin, “Activists: Cambodia’s Draft Cybercrime Law Imperils Free Expression, Privacy, VOA, October 11, 2020, https://www.voanews.com/east-asia-pacific/activists-cambodias-draft-cyb….
- 7HRW, “Cambodia: Scrap Draft Cybercrime Law” November 13, 2020, https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/11/13/cambodia-scrap-draft-cybercrime-law.
- 8Gerald Flynn and Phuong Vantha, “Cambodia’s Online Freedoms under Threat from Draft Cybercrime Law,” Cambodianess, October 22, 2020, https://cambodianess.com/article/cambodias-online-freedoms-under-threat….
- 9ARTICLE 19, “Cambodia: Draft Law on Access to Information,” October 2019, https://www.article19.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/2019.12.08-Cambodi….
- 10Nov Sivutha, “Draft cybercrime law nearing completion,” Phnom Penh Post, September 7, 2022, https://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/draft-cybercrime-law-nearing-com….
- 11HRW, “Cambodia: New Penal Code Undercuts Free Speech,” December 2010, https://www.hrw.org/news/2010/12/23/cambodia-new-penal-code-undercuts-f….
- 12Kingdom of Cambodia, “Criminal Code of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Khmer–English translation,” NGOCEDAW, January 2014, http://ngocedaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Criminal_Code_EN-KH_Jan_….
- 13CCHR, “Digital Wrongs? An Overview of the Situation of Digital Rights in Cambodia,” February 2016, https://cchrcambodia.org/index_old.php?url=media/media.php&p=analysis_d….
- 14Kingdom of Cambodia, “Criminal Code of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Khmer–English translation,” NGOCEDAW, January 2014, http://ngocedaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Criminal_Code_EN-KH_Jan_….
- 15World Trade Organization (WTO), “The Compendium of Cambodian Laws, Volume II: Law on the Press,” July 1995, https://www.wto.org/english/thewto_e/acc_e/khm_e/WTACCKHM3A3_LEG_36.pdf.
- 16Cambodian Criminal Code, Articles 495, 496, and 629 https://www.ajne.org/sites/default/files/resource/laws/7195/criminal-co…
- 17CCHR, “Fact Sheet: The Law on the Press 1995,” September 2011, https://cchrcambodia.org/admin/media/factsheet/factsheet/english/CCHR%2….
- 18Sithi, “Law on the Press (1995),” accessed October 2, 2020, http://sithi.org/temp.php?url=law_detail.php&lg=&id=75; http://sithi.org/admin/upload/law/Law%20on%20the%20Press%20(1995).ENG.p….
- 19Sar Socheath, “ Ministry amending Press Law,” Khmer Times, December 21, 2020, https://www.khmertimeskh.com/50795389/ministry-amending-press-law/.
- 20Mech Dara and Ananth Baliga, ‘Hun Sen ‘mulling fake news bill,’” Phnom Penh Post, April 6, 2018, https://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/hun-sen-mulling-fake-news-bill; Prashanth Parameswaran, “What’s Behind Cambodia’s War on Fake News?,” Diplomat, July 10, 2018, https://thediplomat.com/2018/07/whats-behind-cambodias-war-on-fake-news/.
- 21Ben Sokhean, “PM pushes for anti-fake news law,” Khmer Times, March 5, 2019, https://www.khmertimeskh.com/50583926/pm-pushes-for-anti-fake-news-law/.
- 22Sophat Soeung and Sun Narin, “Cambodia Considers New Anti-'Fake News' Effort,” VOA Khmer, June 22, 2019, https://www.voacambodia.com/a/cambodia-considers-new-anti-fake-news-eff…; “Angkor 'Anti-Fake News' Initiative Signed,” Cambodia News Gazette, August 23, 2019, https://cambodianewsgazette.com/angkor-anti-fake-news-initiative-signed/.
- 23CCHR, “Fundamental Freedoms Snapshot on “Online Expression in Cambodia,’” Accessed October 2, 2020, https://cchrcambodia.org/admin/media/newsletter/newsletter/english/2-Sn….
- 24HRW, ‘Cambodia: Scrap Abusive Covid-19 Prevention Bill’ (5 March 2021) https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/03/05/cambodia-scrap-abusive-covid-19-pre…
- 25Khuth Sokun, ‘Man arrested for posting video forbidding workers to vaccinate against Chinese COVID-19’ (VOD, 24 March 2021) https://vodkhmer.news/2021/03/24/man-arrested-in-connection-with-chines…
|Are individuals penalized for online activities, particularly those that are protected under international human rights standards?||2.002 6.006|
Score Change: The score improved from 1 to 2 because extreme prison sentences were not imposed against internet users during the coverage period, though people still faced arrest for their online activities, and mass trials against opposition figures continued.
Prosecutions for online speech continued as the government targeted dissenting voices in the political opposition and among the general public, as well as human rights defenders and journalists.1 Individuals faced several charges, including defamation, insult of a public official, and incitement to commit a felony.2
Authorities continued to arrest and prosecute former CNRP members en masse for their online activities. Following the politicized conviction of Kem Sokha, the primary opposition candidate to current premier Hun Manet, in March 2023,3 authorities arrested opposition figures Yim Sinorn and Hun Kosal for Facebook comments critiquing the government. Yim Sinorn was released after posting a public apology video and later joined the ruling CPP; Hun Kosal reportedly remained in custody at the end of the coverage period.4 In February 2023, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court upheld the 18-month prison sentence of former CNRP official Kem Tola for Facebook comments critiquing the government in 2019.5 In December 2022, 36 former opposition members received sentences from the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for plotting against the government; their convictions were based in part on their Facebook posts.6 Of the four members who were in Cambodia, three received five-year sentences.7 Members tried in absentia faced up to seven years in prison, while former CNRP member Heng Sokleng was released on bail. In a June 2022 trial, 50 people received five-to-eight-year terms; the trial reportedly dealt with social media comments critical of the government.8 In October 2022, Sam Rainsy received a life term in absentia for allegedly ceding territory to a foreign entity.9 In March 2022, during the previous coverage period, a court convicted 20 CNRP members over their opposition activism, including criticism of the government posted on social media. Twelve of those sentenced were already detained and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment; seven were in exile and sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison.10
Individuals are also subjected to criminal procedures when denouncing violations of free and fair election principles, corruption, and irregularities on the part of officials. In December 2022, the Phnom Penh Appeal Court upheld the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s conviction against Son Chhay, a member of the opposition Candlelight Party who was found guilty defaming the CPP and the National Election Committee. Son Chhay had discussed alleged fraud that marred the June 2022 commune elections with Cambodia Daily.11 The Appeal Court ordered Son Chhay to pay $1 million in damages. Days after the appeal was decided, Hun Sen warned that those defaming the ruling party would be sued, stating that the lawsuit against Son Chhay was meant to deter others.12
Internet users have faced arrests and convictions for their online activity. For example, in November 2021, a 16-year-old boy with autism—who is the son of detained CNRP official Kak Komphear—was arrested and convicted for criticizing government leaders through a voice message in a Telegram group.13 His sentence, including an eight-month prison term, was upheld by the Phnom Penh Appeal Court in March 2022.14
Authorities have previously targeted internet users for sharing allegedly false information related to the coronavirus pandemic and the government's response. In February 2022, during the previous coverage period, CNRP activist Voeurn Veasna was sentenced to a year in prison for incitement over Facebook posts in which he criticized the government’s pandemic response and said Hun Sen sought to appoint his son as his successor.15
Journalists across Cambodia continued to be arrested or harassed for their online reporting. In August 2022, five VOD journalists, one of whom was physically assaulted (see C7), were detained for seven hours while reporting on deforestation at Phnom Tamao (see B8). Authorities claimed the reporters had entered a prohibited area; other journalists in recent weeks had freely reported on the situation.16 In July 2022, an appeals court upheld a provincial court’s sentencing of journalist Kao Piseth for accusing Hun Sen of corruption and questioning Sinopharm coronavirus vaccines in a December 2021 Facebook post. Kao Piseth received a two-year prison sentence and a 3-million-riel ($713) fine.17
Authorities continue to charge users under the lèse-majesté amendment of 2018 to Article 437 of the criminal code. In February 2023, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court upheld the in absentia 18-month conviction against CNRP official Kem Tola over a series of social media comments against the government and the king; Tola was convicted of incitement to overthrow the government.18 In January 2023, Hun Sen called for a police investigation and detention of a Facebook user who criticized him on a picture of an official trip to the Maldives.19 In March 2023, opposition activists Yim Sinorn and Hun Kosal were placed in detention in Prey Sar prison on charges of insulting the king and inciting serious social unrest. The charges are connected with social media posts about the relative positions of Hun Sen and the monarch at the SEA Games torch-lighting ceremony at Angkor Wat. 20
- 1See, e.g., “Briefing | A Legal Brief on Cambodia’s Covid-19 Law Used to Persecute Human Rights Defenders and Other Activists,” LICADHO, September 2022, https://www.licadho-cambodia.org/reports.php?perm=238.
- 2“CCHR, “Cambodia Fundamental Freedoms Monitor, Third Annual Report, April 2018–March 2019,” accessed October 2, 2020, https://docs.google.com/viewerng/viewer?url=https://cchrcambodia.org/ad…. ; https://cchrcambodia.org/index_old.php?url=media/media.php&p=report_det…
- 3RFA Khmer, ‘’Court sentences Cambodian opposition leader Kem Sokha to 27 years for treason’’, March 02, 2023 https://www.rfa.org/english/news/cambodia/kem-sokha-verdict-03022023223….
- 4“Opposition activist released after apologizing for comments about king,” RFA Khmer, March 28, 2023, https://www.rfa.org/english/news/cambodia/activist-released-03282023130…; “Top opposition party youth leader switches allegiance to Hun Sen’s ruling party,” RFA Khmer, April 21, 2023.
- 5Buth Reaksmey Kongkea, “Ex-CNRP official Kem Tola to spend 18 months behind bars,” Khmer Times, February 28, 2023, https://www.khmertimeskh.com/501246392/ex-cnrp-official-kem-tola-to-spe….
- 6“Court Convicts 36 Former Opposition Activists in Latest Mass Trial,” LICADHO, December 22, 2022, https://www.licadho-cambodia.org/articles/20221222/179/index.html.
- 7ស៊ន សារ៉ាត, “អតីតមេដឹកនាំ និងសកម្មជនCNRPជិត៤០នាក់ត្រូវបានផ្តន្ទាទោសឲ្យជាប់ពន្ធនាគាររហូតដល់៧ឆ្នាំពីបទ «រួមគំនិតក្បត់»,” CamboJa News, December 23, 2022, https://khmer.cambojanews.com/dozens-of-cnrp-leaders-and-activists-sent…;
- 9“Cambodia sentences Sam Rainsy to life in prison, concludes trial of Kem Sokha,” RFA Khmer, October 19, 2023, https://www.rfa.org/english/news/cambodia/twotrials-10192022180438.html.
- 11Sorn Sarath, ‘’Appeal Court upholds Son Chhay defamation ruling, ups damages owed to CPP to $1 million’’, CamboJA News, December 22 2022, https://cambojanews.com/appeal-court-upholds-son-chhay-defamation-rulin…
- 12FN International ‘’PM Hum Sen: Anyone who defames CPP shall be sued’’, Fresh News, December 22 2022, https://en.freshnewsasia.com/index.php/en/localnews/33760-2022-12-22-07…
- 13Eugene Whong, “Cambodia sentences autistic minor to eight months in prison,” Radio Free Asia, November 1, 2021, https://www.rfa.org/english/news/cambodia/kak-11012021171536.html.
- 14Khan Leakena, “Court of Appeal upholds case of opposition activist’ son,” VOD Khmer, March 14, 2022, https://www.vodkhmer.news/2022/03/14/court-of-appeal-upholds-case-of-op….
- 15See e.g., Buth Reaksmey Kongkea, “Ex-CNRP activist jailed a year, fined $500 for incitement,” Khmer Times, February 4, 2022 https://www.khmertimeskh.com/501018724/ex-cnrp-activist-jailed-a-year-f…; Richard Finney, “Cambodian Court Sends CNRP Activist to Prison After He Returns From Thailand,” Radio Free Asia, October 1, 2021, https://www.rfa.org/english/news/cambodia/prison-10012021150926.html
- 16“Deplorable use of violence and detention of journalists, activists in Cambodia,” Reporters without Borders, accessed on July 25, 2023, https://rsf.org/en/deplorable-use-violence-and-detention-journalists-ac….
- 17Ngay Nai, ‘’Appeal Court upholds sentence against journalist who criticized vaccines’’, CamboJA News, July 5 2022, https://cambojanews.com/appeal-court-upholds-sentence-against-journalis…; “Cambodia: Appeal court confirms jail sentence for journalist,” IFJ, July 13, 2022, https://www.ifj.org/media-centre/news/detail/category/press-releases/ar….
- 18Buth Reaksmey Kongkea, ‘’Ex-CNRP official Kem Tola to spend 18 months behind bars’’, Khmer Times, February 28 2023, https://www.khmertimeskh.com/501246392/ex-cnrp-official-kem-tola-to-spe…
- 19Mech Dara, ‘’Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen orders police to find Facebook beach insulter, VOD, January 25 2023, https://globalvoices.org/2023/01/25/cambodias-prime-minister-hun-sen-or…
- 20Phoung Vantha, ‘’Prey Sar detention for protocol row pair’’, Cambodianess, March 23, 2023 https://cambodianess.com/article/prey-sar-detention-for-protocol-row-pa…; Aljazeera, ‘’Cambodian activists charged with insulting king on Facebook’’, March 23, 2023 https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/3/23/cambodians-held-on-rare-royal-…
|Does the government place restrictions on anonymous communication or encryption?||3.003 4.004|
Encryption technology is freely available. There are some limits on anonymous communication.
The 2015 Regulation on Cell Phone Data threatens suspensions and fines for mobile service providers who do not register the identities of customers.1 The regulation obliges companies to supply police with identification details of SIM card holders on request.2 In August 2022, the MPTC issued a final warning to mobile service providers to stop selling unregistered SIM cards by January 2023.3 As of May 2022, Cambodia recorded over 19 million registered SIM cards. The authorities have cracked down on retailers who failed to register SIM card owners since 2017.4 In 2016, a TRC spokesman said that the government would monitor telecommunications operators’ databases to prevent unregistered SIM cards from being distributed that year.5 According to the TRC, the stricter implementation of the regulation led to a decrease in the number of mobile subscribers between 2016 and 2018.6
Responding to heightened surveillance, Cambodians have increasingly turned to encrypted applications such as WhatsApp to communicate. Government officials also increasingly use encrypted applications.7 However, under the NIG subdecree (see A3), ISPs will be required to make users complete online forms with accurate, identifiable information, including names and birthdates, thus undermining anonymous communication.8
- 1Khy Sovuthy and Aisha Down, “Telecoms Ministry Promises Punishment for Non-Registration of Phone Users,” Cambodia Daily, November 2, 2016, https://english.cambodiadaily.com/business/telecoms-ministry-promises-p….
- 2CCHR, “Digital Wrongs? An Overview of the Situation of Digital Rights in Cambodia,” February 2016, https://cchrcambodia.org/index_old.php?url=media/media.php&p=analysis_d….
- 3Long Kimmarita, “Telecoms ministry orders all SIMs registered by 2023,” The Phnom Penh Post, August 30, 2022, https://phnompenhpost.com/national/telecoms-ministry-orders-all-sims-re….
- 4Khy Sovuthy, “Police Hail First Arrest in Unregistered SIM Card Crackdown,” Cambodia Daily, February 22, 2017, https://english.cambodiadaily.com/news/police-hail-first-arrest-in-unre….
- 5Cheng Sokhorng, “A Final Call for Unregistered SIMs,” Phnom Penh Post, October 6, 2016, https://www.phnompenhpost.com/business/final-call-unregistered-sims.
- 6TRC, “Mobile Phone Subscriptions,” accessed January 21, 2020, https://www.trc.gov.kh/mobile-phone-subcribers/; Sok Chan, “The number of mobile connections drops slightly,” Khmer Times, February 20, 2018, https://www.khmertimeskh.com/109449/number-mobile-connections-drops-sli….
- 7Alex Willemyns and Mech Dara, “In a digital age, government turns to Telegram for communication,” Phnom Penh Post, August 10, 2017, https://www.phnompenhpost.com/national-post-depth-politics/digital-age-….
- 8Reuters Staff, “Cambodia’s new China-style internet gateway decried as repression tool”, Reuters, February 18, 2021 https://www.reuters.com/article/us-cambodia-internet/cambodias-new-chin…
|Does state surveillance of internet activities infringe on users’ right to privacy?||2.002 6.006|
The government monitors residents’ publicly visible activity online and extralegally surveils private communications, despite the existence of some legal safeguards.
Article 97 of the 2015 Law on Telecommunications criminalizes eavesdropping by private individuals but permits secret surveillance with approval from an undefined “legitimate authority.” The law includes no legal or procedural safeguards and appears to authorize undeclared monitoring of “any private speech via telecommunications.”1 The passing of the NIG subdecree allows for the government’s unfettered surveillance of individuals’ online activity, but the extent to which this law will be implemented is not yet known (see A3 and B3).
Under the September 2022 draft of the proposed Cybersecurity Law, authorities can seize computer systems and access user data in response to suspected threats or incidents that could cause “significant harm” to “national security, national defense, foreign relations, the economy, public health, safety or public order.” 2 The draft outlines the penalties for those who fail to comply with the provisions as up to one year of imprisonment and a fine of 150 million riels ($35,670). The draft remains under stakeholder review as of the end of the coverage period. 3
Private communications have been monitored and published online to discredit public figures in recent years. While members of the ruling CPP have been targeted, individuals affiliated with the CNRP have more often been affected. For example, in October 2017, the progovernment online media outlet Fresh News published purported leaks of CNRP lawmakers’ private conversations; Fresh News obtained the messages from the Sei Ha Facebook page, an anonymous page often accused of being a vehicle for government propaganda.4
Monitoring of CNRP members’ private communications continued during the coverage period. In December 2022, authorities relied in part on recordings of private phone calls to prosecute 36 former CNRP leaders and members in a mass trial (see C3).5 In December 2020, former CNRP activist Kong Mas was arrested in connection with the mass trial of CNRP officials on “plotting” charges. The authorities confiscated his cell phone. Later, he discovered his Facebook passwords were changed and his account had been hacked. The hackers used his account to send messages to other CNRP members in an apparent attempt to manipulate recipients of the messages into incriminating themselves.6
In 2019, the National Police announced they were monitoring the social media activity of CNRP supporters ahead of Sam Rainsy’s expected return to Cambodia, while the Ministry of Interior confirmed the government was monitoring phone communications between Rainsy and his supporters.7 In September 2019, two CNRP members, Sun Bunthon and Nou Phoeun, were questioned by police; officials addressed the transcript of their private phone conversation, which focused on Cambodia’s political situation and Rainsy’s expected return, during questioning.8 In January 2018, amid claims of illicit affairs allegedly involving high-ranking government officials, Hun Sen implied that the government could access private phone records.9
In recent years, authorities have stated on numerous occasions that they were monitoring online content.10 In 2017, the National Police announced that it was monitoring Facebook to detect and deter “rebel movements against the government.”11 The ruling CPP’s five-year strategic plan, adopted in January 2018, strongly emphasizes the need for increased surveillance.12 The 2018 interministerial Prakas on Website and Social Media Control gives extensive surveillance powers to the government and mandates that the MPTC, the Ministry of Information, and the Ministry of Interior form a special unit to effectively “police” social media, ostensibly to fight against purportedly false news (see B3).13 In October 2019, the Ministry of Interior’s information technology department announced plans to create a Security Operation Center, which it said would monitor online threats on all digital platforms.14 In January 2021, the Ministry of Information announced its intention to increase monitoring of TikTok and private communications platforms, including WhatsApp, Telegram, and Messenger.15 As a result of this increased monitoring, the government has targeted individuals for their speech on Telegram and a Ministry of Labor government official was fired for spreading “fake news” via Telegram voice messages about the number of COVID-19 infections in Cambodia.16
In September 2021, the Ministry of Interior and Chinese law enforcement officials agreed to form an “anti-crime plan” whereby Beijing would provide the National Police with equipment, including biometric surveillance technology.17 This has led to fears that the surveillance technology could be used against dissidents or those perceived critical of the Cambodian government. These concerns were reiterated by Cambodian labor activists who claimed that their online and offline activities were being tracked by authorities employing Chinese surveillance technology. A government official denied this claim.18
- 1LICADHO, “Cambodia's Law on Telecommunications: A Legal Analysis,” March 2016, https://www.licadho-cambodia.org/reports.php?perm=214.
- 2Fiona Kelliher, ‘’Leaked law proposal would give Cambodia expanded powers to censors critics’’, Rest of the World, March 10, 2023 https://restofworld.org/2023/cybersecurity-law-draft-cambodia-elections/
- 3Nov Sivutha, ‘’Draft cybercrime law nearing completion’’, The Phnom Penh Post, September 07, 2022
- 4Kann Vicheika, “Controversial Facebook Page Seen as Avenue for Gov’t Propaganda,” VOA Khmer, February 16, 2017, https://www.voacambodia.com/a/controversial-facebook-page-seen-as-avnue….
- 5“Court Convicts 36 Former Opposition Activists in Latest Mass Trial,” Licadho, December 22, 2022, https://www.licadho-cambodia.org/articles/20221222/179/index.html.
- 6Moung Naret, “Koung Mas's wife says that someone hacked her husband’s Facebook,” Radio Free Asia, January 5, 2021 https://www.rfa.org/khmer/news/social-economy/kong-mas-wife-hacked-face…
- 7Taing Vida, “Refrain from violence if Rainsy returns: Sar Kheng,” Khmer Times, June 18, 2019, https://www.khmertimeskh.com/50615130/refrain-from-violence-if-rainsy-r….; Kann Vicheika, “Government Admits to Monitoring Opposition Officials Ahead of Sam Rainsy Return,” VOA Khmer, October 29, 2019, https://www.voacambodia.com/a/government-admits-to-monitoring-oppositio….
- 8Andrew Nachemson and Kong Meta, “A Digital Echo of the Khmer Rouge haunts phones in Cambodia,” Coda Story, October 22, 2019, https://codastory.com/authoritarian-tech/surveillance-phone-cambodia/.
- 9Erin Handley, “PM derides talk of government affairs, hinting phone records could reveal all,” Phnom Penh Post, January 23, 2018, https://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/pm-derides-talk-government-affai…; Mech Dara and Shaun Turton, “PM takes aim at Post, analyst,” Phnom Penh Post, February 3, 2017, https://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/pm-takes-aim-post-analyst.
- 10Ben Sokhean and Ben Paviour, “Government To Monitor Sam Rainsy’s Facebook Page,” Cambodia Daily, August 1, 2017, https://english.cambodiadaily.com/news/government-to-monitor-sam-rainsy….
- 11Mech Dara, “Cambodia’s Facebook crackdown: Police are monitoring site for ‘enemies’ and ‘rebel movements,’” Phnom Penh Post, July 25, 2017, https://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/cambodias-facebook-crackdown-pol…; Kong Meta and Daphne Chen, “Defence Ministry monitoring Facebook for feedback,” Phnom Penh Post, February 14, 2018, https://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/defence-ministry-monitoring-face….
- 12Sithi, “Law on Telecommunications,” January 2016, http://sithi.org/temp.php?url=law_detail.php&lg=&id=277.
- 13Mech Dara and Hor Kimsay, “Three ministries set up web-monitoring group to look out for ‘fake news,’” Phnom Penh Post, June 7, 2018, https://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/three-ministries-set-web-monitor….
- 14Khuon Narim, “Planned security centre raises rights concerns over internet surveillance,” Khmer Times, October 10, 2019, https://www.khmertimeskh.com/50649622/planned-security-centre-raises-ri….
- 15Cambodia Daily, “Cambodia expands monitoring of ‘fake news’,” Cambodia Daily, January 29, 2021, https://english.cambodiadaily.com/news/cambodia-expands-monitoring-of-f….
- 16Thmey Thmey, “Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Labor fired for spreading false information about COVID-19,” May 8, 2021, https://thmeythmey.com/?page=detail&id=103467.
- 17Oun Chheng Por, “Chinese police share intelligence and tracking technology with Cambodia and help build National Police headquarters,” VOA, September 29, 2021, https://khmer.voanews.com/a/new-deal-sees-china-build-cambodia-s-police…
- 18Rina Chandran, “Activists fear surveillance threat as China equips Belt and Road countries with spy tech,” September 19, 2022, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2022/09/19/asia-pacific/activists-fea….
|Does monitoring and collection of user data by service providers and other technology companies infringe on users’ right to privacy?||1.001 6.006|
Service providers are required to provide communication information to the government, though this process lacks judicial oversight. Article 6 of the 2015 Law on Telecommunications mandates that all telecommunications operators provide ICT service data to the MPTC.1 There is no requirement for a judicial warrant or other safeguards, and the law places no limits on how long data can be stored.2
The NIG subdecree contains a catch-all clause requiring NIG operators to maintain technical records, lists of internet protocol (IP) addresses, and internet traffic records (see A3, B3, and C2). Under this clause, bulk data must be collected and maintained with no clear purpose.3 One source reported that ISPs are struggling to identify affordable options for storing the bulk data required by the subdecree.4
The draft Law on Cybercrime obliges all ISPs to retain and maintain the data of internet users for a minimum of 180 days and obliges ISPs to provide the user-identifiable data upon request from the competent authorities (see C2). 5
The interministerial Prakas on Website and Social Media Control also obliges ISPs to “install software programs and equip internet surveillance tools to easily filter and block any social media accounts or pages” deemed illegal.6 The Prakas does not provide for any right to challenge a decision taken pursuant to its mandates, nor does it provide for judicial recourse for users whose rights are negatively affected by its implementation.7 There were no updates on its implementation during the coverage period.
In June 2021, the Asia Times reported that Chinese government officials had sought access to the personal data collected by Cambodia’s “Stop COVID-19” contact tracing system.8 The MPTC and the Health Ministry denied the outlet’s reporting.9 The allegations highlighted the lack of privacy safeguards in the system.10
- 1Sithi, “Law on Telecommunications,” January 27, 2016, http://sithi.org/temp.php?url=law_detail.php&lg=&id=277.
- 2LICADHO, “Cambodia's Law on Telecommunications: A Legal Analysis,” March 2016, https://www.licadho-cambodia.org/reports.php?perm=214.
- 3PEN International, “Joint Statement: Discard the Sub-Decree on the Establishment of the National Internet Gateway, set to detrimentally impact human rights online in Cambodia,” February 18, 2021,https://pen-international.org/news/discard-sub-decree-establishment-nat….
- 4Fiona Kelliher, “Cambodia’s internet gateway debut leaves analysts in the dark, “ (Southeast Asia Globe, 15 February 2022).
- 5HRW, “Cambodia: Scrap Draft Cybercrime Law” November 13, 2020, https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/11/13/cambodia-scrap-draft-cybercrime-law.
- 6Mech Dara and Hor Kimsay, “Three ministries set up web-monitoring group to look out for ‘fake news,’” Phnom Penh Post, June 7, 2018, https://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/three-ministries-set-web-monitor….
- 7CCHR, “Civil Society Rejects Government Attack on Freedom of Expression,” June 2018, https://cchrcambodia.org/index_old.php?title=Civil-Society-Rejects-Gove….
- 8Bertil Lintner, “China squeezes Cambodia for its Covid app data”, Asia Times, June 10, 2021, https://asiatimes.com/2021/06/china-squeezes-cambodia-for-its-covid-app….
- 9“Cambodia rejects “fake news” allegations that China is harvesting data via Cambodia’s “Stop Covid” QR code campaign,” Khmer Times, June 14, 2021, https://www.khmertimeskh.com/50873280/cambodia-rejects-fake-news-allega….
- 10Human Rights Watch, “Cambodia: ‘Stop COVID-19’ system raises privacy concerns,” April 6, 2021, https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/04/06/cambodia-stop-covid-19-system-raise….
|Are individuals subject to extralegal intimidation or physical violence by state authorities or any other actor in relation to their online activities?||2.002 5.005|
Journalists, activists, and individuals face increasing harassment, smear campaigns, and violence in Cambodia, including at times instigated by state officials. A threat-assessment survey conducted by the CCIM in 2022 found that 39 percent of surveyed journalists reported being verbally attacked or physically assaulted while carrying out their duties, while 56 percent said they had experienced legal harassment resulting from their work.1
Physical attacks against online journalists and activists were also reported during the coverage period. In January 2023, the editor in chief of BTN Media was reportedly pushed into a canal by a military officer who owned a sand-dredging site; the journalist was reporting on the impact of sand dredging on nearby rice fields.2 In August 2022, a VOD video journalist was slapped in the face and had his phone taken by an officer after recording the detention of his colleagues (see C3). The journalists were reporting on the Phnom Tamao forest clearing (see B8).3 The Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association (CJAA) reported that in August 2022, the car of a Penh Chet Media journalist was shot by an unknown assailant after the journalist published an article on illegal cockfighting; the journalist alleged that authorities may have been involved in the activity.4
RFA reported that CPP supporters and government officials were encouraged by Hun Manet’s Cyber War Room to harass CSOs and critical media outlets via social media ahead of the July 2023 elections (see B5).5 In a June 2023 Facebook livestream, after the coverage period, Hun Sen threatened political opponents with violence, stating that he would “gather CPP people to protest and beat you up” and send “gangsters to [your] house” if they did not choose the “legal system.” Meta’s Oversight Board subsequently recommended Hun Sen’s accounts be temporarily suspended in part for his amplification of violent threats (see A3).6
Online harassment is increasingly common in Cambodia. A November 2021 survey of 700 Cambodian internet users found that 38 percent reported experiencing online harassment, with LGBT+ people and women more likely to be sexually harassed.7 In February 2023, Hun Sen criticized a civil society coalition after it released a joint statement condemning a social media creator’s online sexual harassment of a woman VOD reporter.8
- 1Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM), “Challenges for Independent Media in Cambodia 2021 Report,” January 2022, https://ccimcambodia.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/CCIM_Challenges-for….
- 2"Journalism Situation in Cambodia: Quarterly Monitoring Report, January-March 2023,” CamboJA, May 2023, https://www.camboja.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/Quarterly-Report-Jan…; “ទៀតហើយ អ្នកសារព័ត៌មាន ត្រូវបានម្ចាស់អាជីវកម្ម បូមខ្សាច់ ធ្វើសកម្មភាព ឆក់យកកាដសំគាល់ខ្លួន រហូតឈានទៅដល់ ហិង្សា,” Kang Meas News, January 28, 2023, http://www.kangmeasnews.com/2023/01/kmn_90.html.
- 3“Deplorable use of violence and detention of journalists, activists in Cambodia,” Reporters without Borders, accessed on July 25, 2023, https://rsf.org/en/deplorable-use-violence-and-detention-journalists-ac….
- 4“Cambodian Journalism situation Report 2022: An annual record of reported harassment cases against journalists,” Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association, April 2023, https://www.camboja.net/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/2022-Cambodian-Journ….
- 5Neou Vannarin, “ក្រុមវាយប្រហារតាមអ៊ីនធឺណិតបក្សកាន់អំណាចកំពុងពង្រឹងសកម្មភាពតាមអុកឡុកបន្សាបមតិរិះគន់,” Radio Free Asia, July 3, 2023, https://www.rfa.org/khmer/news/human-rights/cyber-attack-groups-are-int…; Samuel Wooley, “Some of the Worst Troll Armies Are Gaining Ground. Just Look at Cambodia,” New York Times, July 11, 2023, https://www.nytimes.com/2023/07/11/opinion/cambodia-elections-hun-sen-h….
- 6“Oversight Board overturns Meta's decision in "Cambodian prime minister" case,” June 2023, https://www.oversightboard.com/news/656303619335474-oversight-board-ove….
- 7“Status Update: Harassment on Social Media in Cambodia,” Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights, November 2021, https://www.licadho-cambodia.org/reports.php?perm=235.
- 8Sorn Sarath, “After VOD Shutdown, Hostility Against Reporters,” CamboJa News, February 21, 2023, https://cambojanews.com/after-vod-shutdown-hostility-against-reporters/.
|Are websites, governmental and private entities, service providers, or individual users subject to widespread hacking and other forms of cyberattack?||2.002 3.003|
Score Change: The score improved from 1 to 2 due to a lack of reported cyberattacks against civil society groups, human rights defenders, and media outlets during the coverage period.
Government bodies, private entities, and government officials were subject to technical attacks during the coverage period. The social media accounts of activists, human rights organizations, and media outlets have been reportedly hacked in recent years.1 Though the human rights organization LICADHO reported that its website was briefly defaced by a hacker in August 2022, no serious attacks were publicly reported during the coverage period.2
In May 2023, the website of Cambodia Angkor Air faced a distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, temporarily halting its online services.3 In April 2023, the official Facebook page of Deputy Prime Minister Men Sam An was temporarily overtaken by an anonymous hacker.4 The Facebook page of Poipet City governor Keat Hul was overtaken the same month, reportedly by a Vietnamese clothing store.5
There are also reports of hacking attempts by actors abroad. In November 2022, a group known as “Dark Pink” launched a malware and phishing attack against the Ministry of Economy and Finance. Targets in other countries also faced cyberattacks.6 In May 2021, the US Justice Department indicted four Chinese hackers with cyberespionage for targeting Cambodian government ministries in 2018.7
- 1Trudy Harris, “Cambodia’s Internet crackdown reaches its activist monks,” Coda Story, March 28, 2019, https://www.codastory.com/authoritarian-tech/cambodias-internet-crackdo….; “សមាគម អាដហុក បារម្ភពីគេហទំព័ររបស់ខ្លួនត្រូវបានក្រុមចោរបច្ចេកវិទ្យាចូលគ្រប់គ្រង [ADHOC Concerned About Its Website Being Taken Over by Hackers],” RFA, July 19, 2018, https://www.rfa.org/khmer/news/human-rights/Adhoc-website-was-hacked-07…; Pav Suy, “More Facebook pages hacked,” Khmer Times, February 28, 2018, https://www.khmertimeskh.com/110854/facebook-pages-hacked/; Mech Dara, “Fresh News blames hackers for false post on Hun Sen’s death,” Phnom Penh Post, November 28, 2017, https://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/fresh-news-blames-hackers-false-…; Hor Kimsay and Daphne Chen, “Hacks a ‘wakeup call’ to telecom security weaknesses: gov’t,” Phnom Penh Post, March 14, 2018, https://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/hacks-wakeup-call-telecom-securi….
- 2“Briefs: Rights Group Website Hacked, Military Police Officers Sent to Pre-Trial Detention,” Voice of Democracy, August 23, 2022, https://vodenglish.news/briefs-rights-group-website-hacked-military-pol….
- 3Vishwa Pandagle, “Cambodia Angkor Air Cyber Attack: ‘Host Kill Crew Hackers’ Claims Responsibility,” May 10, 2023, https://thecyberexpress.com/cambodia-angkor-air-cyber-attack-airlines-h….
- 4“Deputy PM’s Facebook page hacked,” Khmer times, April 20, 2023, https://www.khmertimeskh.com/501276516/deputy-pms-facebook-page-hacked/.
- 5“Poipet city Governor’s Facebook page hacked by Vietnamese clothing store,” Khmer Times. April 19, 2023, https://www.khmertimeskh.com/501275796/poipet-city-governors-facebook-p….
- 6Sarah Zheng and Jamie Taraby, “Suspected State Hackers Stole Military Data From Asian Countries,” Bloomberg, January 11, 2023, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-01-11/suspected-state-hack….
- 7See e.g., Sun Narin, “US Indictment Alleged Chinese Hack of Cambodian Ministry,” VOA, July 22, 2021 https://www.voacambodia.com/a/us-indictment-alleges-chinese-hack-of-cam…; United States District Court Southern District of California, Indictment: USA v. Ding Xiaoyang, Cheng Qingmin, Zhu Yunmin, and Wu Shurong, May 28, 2021 https://www.justice.gov/opa/press-release/file/1412916/download
See all data, scores & information on this country or territory.See More
Global Freedom Score24 100 not free
Internet Freedom Score44 100 partly free
Freedom in the World StatusNot Free