Officials: Cambodia Hopes to Get US$1 Billion Aid as Expected – Thursday, 3.6.2010

Posted on 4 June 2010. Filed under: Week 667 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 667

“Government officials and donors met on Wednesday in Phnom Penh for the [third] Cambodia Development Cooperation Forum. During the forum, the donors appealed to the government to speed up key reforms tied to the provision of aid. More than 100 representatives from donor countries and from international financial organizations attend the Cambodian Development Cooperation Forum with plans to grant aid before the meeting ends on Thursday. Officials of the Cambodian government expect that the government will get the envisaged aid of US$1 billion.

“During the speech to open the forum, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that the government will use the aid effectively, adding that the government will continue to solve major problems such as corruption, land ownership, and judicial reform. He said, ‘The Royal Government has made its utmost effort to firmly and deeply implement various reform programs and consider them a “life or death” issue for Cambodia.’

“The World Bank country director, Ms. Annette Dixon, said, representing the donors, that she lauded the development of Cambodia since the Cambodian Development Cooperation Forum held in December 2008, but the progress of the government is still limited in terms of its work to improve strategic planing and to manage aid. She said, ‘It is important for the government to take the lead in aligning resources to development priorities,’

“During the closed-door meeting on Wednesday, the delegations discussed the National Strategic Development Plan Update for 2009-2013 of the government, as well as the policies to ensure the macroeconomic stability during this time of a global economic crisis. In December 2008, Cambodia received pledges of US$951.5 million, compared to US$650 million in June 2007.

“The spokesperson of the Royal Government, Mr. Khieu Kanharith, said after the meeting on Wednesday that the meeting went smoothly and there were not any objections from donors. He said, ‘I don’t know how much money the government will receive from donor countries this year, but I estimate it will reach our expectations.’

“Also, the Minister of Economy and Finance, Mr. Keat Chhon, said that the aid tendency keeps increasing, and the requirement of the government will rise to as much as US$1 billion in 2010.

“The Cambodian Development Cooperation Forum has been analyzed carefully in the past few weeks, and local and international non-government organizations called on the donors to press the government to fulfill the agreed requirements carrying out major reforms in the country and to apply the Joint Monitoring Indicators. Fifteen local non-government organizations said in a document released on Tuesday, ‘It is not enough to throw money at problems and hope the ruling party will act in the interest of the people.’

“A report released on Monday by Global Witness suggested that the donors should take ‘a coordinated stand against the horribly subverted dynamic of aid in Cambodia in which their country’s money props up the basic functions of the state, leaving an elite free to exploit the state’s assets for personal profit.’

“An advisor of the government, Mr. Raoul Jennar, said during the forum that the government and the donors have been successful in cooperating to create new laws, and he hopes that the donors will provide strong support during the Cambodian Development Cooperation Forum. He said, ‘The government has made many achievements in recent years where more than 260 laws have been adopted during the previous decade. The problem is that development needs highly skilled human resources; this is a problem that Cambodia is facing.’

“Other participants said that the government should care more about the involvement by civil society rather than focusing on foreign policy makers.” Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #185, 3.6.2010

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 3 June 2010

Areyathor, Vol.17, #1442, 3-4.6.2010

  • 2,000 Workers Strike in Kompong Chhnang [against their shoe factory owner, who is forcing them to work overtime]

Deum Ampil, Vol.4, #494, 3.6.2010

  • Sam Rainsy Party Parliamentarians Are Still Defiant and Want to Visit the Border Marker Number 270 [in Takeo though the president of the National Assembly did not give them a permission for this visit]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.9, #2265, 3.6.2010

  • Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen: The Aid provided by Development Partners Is a Very Important Contribution for the Development of Cambodia
  • The Cambodian and the Indonesian Governments Signed an Agreement to Mutually Waive Visa Fees for Normal Passport

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.4, #672, 3.6.2010

  • [Sam Rainsy Party spokesperson] Yim Sovann: Sam Rainsy Party Parliamentarians Will Visit the Border Marker Number 270 Today

Koh Santepheap, Vol.43, #6972, 3.6.2010

  • Ms. Mu Sochua Said that She Will Not Pay the Fine of Riel 16.5 Million [approx. US$4,000] in the Case She Lost [against Prime Minister Hun Sen over defamation], but She Would Rather Go to Jail [the Supreme Court upheld the judgment of the Appeals Court]
  • A Grenade Was Thrown at a Dancing Event, Resulting in One Death and Thirteen Injured People [perpetrators are not yet identified – Oddar Meanchey]
  • The Japanese Prime Minister [Mr. Hatoyama Yukio] Resigned from His Position after Staying in Office Less Than One Year

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3896, 3.6.2010

  • The National Bank of Cambodia Bought Riel Notes with US$3 Million to Support the Dwindling Value of the Riel [the present exchange rate is approx. US$1 to Riel 4,260]

Phnom Penh Post [Khmer Edition], Vol.1, #185, 3.6.2010

  • Officials: Cambodia Hopes to Get US$1 Billion Aid as Expected
  • [Minister of Foreign Affairs] Hor Namhong: Cambodia Is too Lazy to Respond to Thailand over an Extradition Request for Mr. Thaksin [confirming that Cambodia will not honor an arrest warrant from Interpol to extradite Mr. Thaksin, though the Thai government plans to send it through Interpol to 187 countries]
  • Disabled People [through 150 representatives of 620 families of veterans from Kompong Cham] Protested in Front of the Prime Minister’s Residence [in Phnom Penh] over a Land Dispute [asking for intervention by Mr. Hun Sen to distribute 4,000 hectares of land to the ‘Association Cripple Development’ in Kratie, because on 24 April 2010, the provincial authorities claimed that the land belongs to private companies]

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.18, #5224, 3.6.2010

  • Cambodia Denied It Has Provided Training Shelter in Cambodia for Thai Red-Shirt Armed Militants [a Thai military commander had commented that Thai red-shirt armed militants had been in Anlong Veng district, Oddar Meanchey]
  • The Asian Development Bank Grants US$2.2 Million for a Project to Assess the Impact of Legal Procedures of the Economic, Social and Cultural Council

Have a look at the last editorial – you can access it directly from the main page of the Mirror.
And please recommend The Mirror also to your colleagues and friends.

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Malaysian “Investments” – Saturday, 15.5.2010

Posted on 17 May 2010. Filed under: Week 664 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 664

Note:

After having been knocked out late on Monday, 10.5.2010, by a bad, but not clearly identified intestinal infection, I am sorry that I could not earlier, and cannot more speedily, catch up again, but maybe it will be done by Monday, 17.5.2010, noon.

Because of the King’s Birthday National Holiday on 13.5.2010, which was extended into further days, it is now intended to have publications, during the current week, only for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Norbert Klein
Editor of the Mirror

I welcome to see Comments in response to publications on The Mirror. When there are Comments, I consider them not as “Letters to the Editor,” but as comments, and I hope other readers may also comment on the Comments.

But the the special situation of this week allows me to respond directly to one comment in detail.

In response to our translated article headline “Malaysian Investors and Investments Are Coming to Cambodia while Cambodia Is Still Unable to Export Its Products” on Monday, 10.5.2010, there was the following Comment noted:

“Do you find this investment not good to your country??”

The “you” is obviously not myself, but the journalist of Khmer Amatak who wrote the article – or all readers in Cambodia. But I will present some subsequent information from the local press.

Before the Billion-Dollar – US$! – deals were signed, there was not much known about their content, only that they would have a total volume of about US$1 billion. This is somewhat surprising, as Article 90 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia says: “The National Assembly is an organ which has legislative power, and performs its duties as provided for in the constitution and laws. The National Assembly shall approve the national budget, State planning, loans, financial contracts, and the creation, modification and annulment of tax.” As the financial contracts would also involve one between a Malaysian private company and the Cambodian government, some information towards the National Assembly and the public might have been expected.

All reports in the press welcomed this huge Malaysian investment – for example the spokesperson of the Council of Ministers, Mr. Phay Siphan, was quoted in The Cambodia Daily saying “he was aware of the deals and believed that the investment would be a huge plus for the Cambodian economy.”

The climate of the reporting changed later, however, after it was revealed that the major part of the deals – the contract between the Malaysian company Nexbis and the Cambodian government (to provide items to print, including identity cards, passports, and visa – the contract is with the Cambodian Ministry of Interior) was not a Malaysian investment, but a contract for which the Cambodian government will have to pay US$700 million – an amount which corresponds to about 35% of the Cambodian government’s budget for 2010. This payment obligation covers the major part of the “one billion deal” which had been considered to be Malaysian investments in Cambodia.

Some comments were reported in The Cambodia Daily:

  • “That’s a very sizable sum” – Bretton Sciaroni, chairman of the International Business Club.
  • “I am in darkness. I know nothing” – the spokesperson of the Ministry of Information, Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak.
  • No information provided – the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Koy Kuong.
  • National Police spokesperson Kirth Chanthatith said he did not know “what was going on.”
  • Ministry of Interior foreign police department in charge of visas Pen Piseth said he knew nothing.
  • Deputy director of the Ministry of Interior’s passport department said he was completely unaware of the deal.
  • The director of the Immigration Department of the National Police Thong Lim: “I do not know about the deal.”
  • The Secretary General of the Ministry of Finance and Economy Hang Chuon Naron said he was unaware of the deal, “I don’t have any information about this. But I think it is not realistic.”

No surprise that now the question is raised, how this deal was concluded – obviously without an open process of competitive bidding. And the question of priorities, to find US$700 million for one of the biggest single deal ever entered into, has not been discussed in the National Assembly, responsible for the national budget.

And in addition, questions are raised about the nature of the company Nexbis – formerly Entertainment Media & Telecoms Corporation – which was hardly known in Cambodia. Now more and more information is coming from Australia, where Nexbis is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange – but it has not reported the Cambodian deal.

In closing, I repeat the Comment received. It is a question to the readers of The Mirror: “Do you find this investment not good to your country?”

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Meeting between Samdech Hun Sen and Mr. Abhisit in Hua Hin – Monday, 2.3.2009

Posted on 3 March 2009. Filed under: Week 602 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 602

“On Friday evening, 27 February 2009, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen, and the Thai Prime Minister, Mr. Abhisit Vejjajiva, met outside the Association of Southeast Asian Nations – ASEAN – Summit at the Cha Am coast of Hua Hin in Thailand, and both sides agreed to fully support the Joint Border Committee to try to mark the border.

The Nation reported that the Cambodian-Thai border committee has achieved only very small progress early February to find border solutions near the Preah Vihear Temple. Both sides had a disagreement about the demand by Thailand to use the word Phra Viharn [in Thai] and the word Preah Vihear [in Khmer].

“Mr. Abhisit told journalists after his meeting with Samdech Hun Sen, ‘Actually, there are some disagreements, but we have a mechanism to handle this work which will lead to important results.’ He added, ‘We will not let such disagreements block other cooperation.’

“Besides land border disputes, the prime ministers of both countries discussed cooperation at the sea-border overlapping zones, where both countries claim the same areas as belonging to their respective integral regions, where it is believed that abundant oil and natural gas resources are situated. Mr. Abhisit said also that both countries will seek joint development projects on energy at those overlapping zones.

“Reuters news agency reported that both countries agreed to organize a technical expert group to fulfill the task to mark the border at zones rich of oil and gas. Mr. Abhisit told reporters, ‘Our mutual understanding recently progressed much, and we are looking for possibilities to begin cooperation on energy. ‘

“Cambodia has a 37,000 km2 zone to be explored, and another 27,000 km2 are regions disputed with Thailand, known as an overlapping zone.

“Prime Minister Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen used to say early in February that the Cambodian government is organizing projects to exploit oil and gas in the sea in 2010. A big US oil company, Chevron, is exploring oil in the Cambodian sea.

“It should be noted that border disputes between Cambodian and Thailand led to clashes in mid 2008, when Thailand deployed troops in the Preah Vihear region, after the Preah Vihear Temple was listed as a world heritage site. This dispute led to a small battle at the Preah Vihear region, while in October, both sides agreed to raise this problem at negotiations.

“During the meeting between both prime ministers, both countries agreed to continue cooperation to develop infrastructure and the Emerald Triangle Project, which is a region where the Cambodian, Thai, and Laotian borders meet.


The ASEAN Summit Started

“Leaders of the 10 member countries of ASEAN attended the opening of the 14th ASEAN Summit at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday in Cha Am, a coastal town in Phetchaburi Province.

“The Bangkok Post reported that the inauguration of the ASEAN summit started, with Mr. Abhisit Vejjajiva as the president of ASEAN, calling for all ASEAN leaders to cooperate to help the region to overcome the economic crisis.

“An ASEAN anthem with the title ‘ASEAN Way’ was played, starting the occasion. That anthem was written by Thai musicians.


Cambodia and Burma Boycott ASEAN Human Rights Discussion

“Cambodia and Burma threatened to boycott joining the discussion with civil society organizations yesterday Sunday, a discussion to create an ASEAN human rights institution.

“The Bangkok Post went on to say that the effort to establish an ASEAN human rights organization started to become difficult on Saturday morning, when Cambodia and Burma prevented civil society organizations’ representatives from Cambodia and from Burma to take part in the discussions with ASEAN leaders.

“The decisions of Cambodia and of Burma were directed against civil society representatives from Cambodia, Pen Somony, and from Burma, Khin Omar, not to attend the discussion.

“Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen not only rejected civil society representative Pen Somony, but he also said that the candidate chosen to attend the human rights discussion was just a person from a political league.

“Laos and Vietnam expressed the same idea as Cambodia and Burma, because leaders of both countries did not want to discuss with civil society representatives that are not close to the government.

“On Friday, Ministers of Foreign Affairs and senior human rights officials of ASEAN did not agree about the nomination of an ASEAN human rights commissioner. It is not yet known whether the ASEAN human rights organization can be formed or not.


ASEAN Signs Free Trade Deal with Australia an New Zealand

“All ministers of economy of ASEAN signed a free trade deal with Australia and New Zealand. The 10 members of the ASEAN countries signed the deal on the first day of the summit in Thailand, which suffers from the economic slowdown.

“It is expected that this whole deal can support the economy of ASEAN with up to US$48 billion by 2020, but little will be achieved to help solve the present crisis. Negotiations to create a 12-country free trade zone began in 2004.

“The new deal means that the ASEAN block has encouraged free trade relations with the economies of all of its important neighboring countries. Earlier on, ASEAN had signed similar deals with China, Japan, and South Korea.

“Also, ASEAN plans to organize a unified market by 2015, with the intention to compete with India and China.

“The Minister of Trade of Australia, Mr. Simon Crean, said that this deal is an essential event to join the economies of the countries of the region. The New Zealand Minister of Trade, Mr. Tim Grosser, said that it was a huge deal and also a politically necessary deal.

“Mr. Grosser went on to say, ‘Formerly we had considered Southeast Asia to be a source of threat, instability, and a hazard. Changing this view, an agreement was signed, considering Southeast Asian countries as a huge economic opportunity. This is a very welcome change within 30 years.’

“The summit in Cha Am, a resort in Thailand, witnessed two agreements of ASEAN being concluded: one on commerce, and one on investments. The member countries of ASEAN are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

“The 14th ASEAN Summit was to focus on human rights, but the global financial crisis took the top of the agenda this year.” Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.8, #1886, 1-2.3.2009

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Monday, 2 March 2009

Bakong, Vol.10, #255, 2-3.3.2009

  • Cambodia Obtains Little Aid from Canada [Canadian officials said that Canada will narrow its bilateral aid focusing on 20 countries and Cambodia will not be included]

Cheat Khmer, Vol.1, #28, 2.3.2009

  • Mr. Sam Rainsy Demands that the National Assembly Restore His Immunity [after he paid a fine to the National Election Committee]

Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #128, 1-2.3.2009

  • [Former Khmer Rouge leader] Ieng Thirith Cursed Those Who Accused Her of Killing People to Fall into the Seventh Level Hell
  • Secretary of State of the Ministry of Interior Asks Prison Administrators to Respect Human Rights Policies of Prisoners
  • Police Do Not Take Action Against a Policeman Who Raped a 13-Year-Old Girl when Her Mother Filed a Complaint [Kompong Thom]

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.8, #1886, 1-2.3.2009

  • Meeting between Samdech Hun Sen and Mr. Abhisit in Hua Hin
  • Egypt Asks to Establish School of Navigation in Cambodia and a Honorary Consulate [so that Cambodians gain skills and have the possibility to go to work in Egypt]

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.3, #355, 1-3.3.2009

  • The International Community Still Encourages the Hun Sen Government Not to Use Any Pretext to Delay Adopting an Anti-Corruption Law

Koh Santepheap, Vol.42, #6591, 2.3.2009

  • Thailand Announced Not to Charge Visa Fees from Tourists while Eight ASEAN Countries Had Already Abolished It

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #4834, 2.3.2009

  • Heads of Governments of Cambodia and of Thailand Agree to Solve Border Disputes through the Memorandum of Understanding from 2000
  • The British Ambassador [Mr. Andrew Mace]: The Government Has to Create a Social Safety Network [so that all can live happily in the society]
  • Five AK-47 Rifles Are Used [by eight robbers] to Shoot at Gold Sellers and Kill One [police have not identified the robbers – Koh Thom, Kandal]
  • The Number of Khmer Vendors in the Thai Rung Kloeu Market Declined by 50% [after Poipet or the Ou Chrov district was changed to be Poipet City: according to Thai Rak Thai]

Have a look at the last editorial – you can access it directly from the main page of the Mirror.

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Censorship: Thousands of Crude Porn Sites Accessible on Internet – One Khmer Artist Blocked – Sunday, 1.2.2009

Posted on 2 February 2009. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 597 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 597

When the Cambodian government held a three day consultation in September 2001, the Prime Minister opened it with a speech on Public Awareness about Information Technology. Charting the future, he said:

“The government’s top priority is to use Information Technology – IT – to serve and to meet the day-to-day needs of the people. IT should become as an efficient means for the public to exercise their rights to get information related to the decisions made by the government and the conduct of government business in accordance with the principles of transparency and good governance…

“IT will help strengthen democracy, ensure transparency, promote good governance in government and community businesses. With regard to the economic and social aspect, IT will improve major public service delivery to the local people and allow them to monitor and receive regularly and timely all kinds of information.”

In February last year, the Prime Minister emphasized the importance of transparency again, more specifically in relation to economic development as a means of poverty reduction, in his keynote address 2008 Cambodia Outlook Conference: Mobilizing Cambodia’s Resources – Human, Natural, Financial – for Quality Development, Growth and Prosperity, when he said:

“A healthy private sector is the key to robust economic development and thus the government should ensure the legal framework for fair competition, transparency, accountability and productive relations with the public sector. The overall environment for enterprise will be strengthened through broadened good governance and human resources development. The public sector should also be strong in order to correct the market failures, essentially to reach the poor and disadvantaged.”

Recent days and weeks would have provided ample opportunity to demonstrate the promised open and transparent communication – using information technology, the telephone, and direct talk.

Unfortunately, in spite of repeated pledges to install official spokespersons in the different ministries and other government agencies, and even having trained 18 persons for this task and given them certificates, there is obviously a problem that the basic commitment to transparency – “for the public to exercise their rights to get information related to the decisions made by the government,” as the Prime Minister said – is disregarded.

Related to the Dey Krahom evictions, which continue to cause deep problems for the men, women, and children involved, we collected the following items from the Cambodia Daily in a single day – Friday, 30 January 2009:

  • “Shukaku representatives could not be reached for comment and CPP Senator Lao Meng Khin [the husband of the owner of the Shukaku company] turned off his phone when a reporter contacted him.”
  • At the office of the Boeng Kak Development committee, an employee declined to provide his name, but suggested, “I think you have to ask Phnom Penh Municipality.”
  • “Municipal Governor Kep Chuktema and his deputies Mann Chhoeun and Pa Socheatvong could not be reached for comment.”
  • After contacting the 7NG company, “a company representative said he would meet Thursday with the residents.” – However, when contacted Thursday, the meeting was canceled.
  • “Chhay Rithisen, director of the municipal land management department, could not be reached for comment. Deputy directors Sek Yorn and Sar Bamnang both directed questions… to Chhay Rithisen.”

Many people do not seem to care about the importance the Prime Minister has accorded to transparency and “to reach the poor and disadvantaged” when there are “market failures” which derail the ultimate goal of development.

Over the weekend there was another blow to transparency in Cambodia. It is widely acknowledged that, in addition to huge resources for knowledge, connectivity, and entertainment, the Internet provides access to pornography – according to experts, there are tens of thousands of pornographic websites. There is no technical Internet blocking of access to these sites in Cambodia, which, as Internet experts recommend that criminal violations of pornography abuse laws should be best handled through legal prosecution, not through arbitrary and ineffective blocking of Internet sites.

Now, however, though not blocking any real pornography sites, some Internet Service Providers in Cambodia have started to block access to the website of a Cambodian artist based in the USA:

When the web site of this Khmer artist became known through the press, he was strongly attacked, accused of destroying Khmer culture because he did not only paint pictures of Angkor Wat stone apsaras, but also of lifelike apsara dancers whose bodies were, like the stone carvings, not completely clothed.

He offers on his website professional hints in painting techniques, and he wrote also:

“I’m trying to build an online Khmer Arts community for novice artists, advance artists, graphic artists, tattoo artists, or anyone for that matter who is interested in Khmer Arts. We can share ideas, discuss about your designs, and network with other Khmer artists from across the United States and around the world.

“The meaning of life is an elusive concept that has been the subject of much philosophical, scientific and theological speculation. For thousands of years, men and women of every age, race, and culture have sought to understand the meaning of life. Throughout history, scientists and philosophers, theologians and artists, politicians and social activists, monks and sages, and men and women from all walks of life have discussed and debated many questions in the quest to discover the meaning of life.

“One of the central views in Buddhism is a non-dual worldview, in which subject and object are the same, and the sense of doer-ship is illusionary. On this account, the meaning of life is to become enlightened as to the nature and oneness of the universe. According to the scriptures, the Buddha taught that in life there exists Dukkha, which is in essence sorrow/suffering, that is caused by desire and it can be brought to cessation by following the Noble Eightfold Path.

“It is a practical guideline to ethical and mental development with the goal of freeing oneself from attachments and delusions; and it finally leads to understanding the truth about all things. From this, one can attain a higher level of existence and finally reach Nirvana and that will be the meaning of my life.

“I believe in constructive criticisms! But lately, I’ve received many unwanted complaints regarding that some of my works disgraced the Khmer culture. Judging from the complaints, I wonder how we as Khmer will be able to make it in the 21st century.”

A Secretary of State of the Ministry of Information announced the intention to “publish services through electronic systems under the control of a law which is being drafted.” This announcement causes great alarm – not only because history has shown that the introduction of censorship of art has often been the entry point to suppress other freedoms, but because the Cambodian Constitution guarantees freedom of expression and publication, and the state has to uphold impartiality and protect the rights and freedoms of citizens (Articles 41 and 109).

The wide intent of the draft of this legislation became clear when it was stated:

“All Internet Service Providers which ask for licenses from the Ministry of Post and Telecommunication must, in advance, also ask for a second license from the Ministry of Information if this law is adopted, because these companies allow Internet users to connect networks and to use data in different networks.”

Does this mean, for example, that the Ministry of Information might refuse to license the apsara pictures on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, which all foreigners see when they apply there for a visa?

Official Visa Application Site

Who in the Ministry of Information will be the authority on expressions of art, or decide – to quote the same Secretary of State – if “pictures can evoke sexual feelings” and should be prohibited? Is the work of art of one person a greater assault on the cultural traditions and remnants of the country than the destruction of the historic Bassac Theater, and now the threatened destruction of the landmark Renakse Hotel, which is the former Ministry of Justice and part of the architectural environment of the Royal Palace?

In the early years of the Internet, when the present Minister of Information was a secretary of state at the same ministry, he wrote an e-mail in 1999 to Bill Herod, one of the Internet pioneers in Cambodia, which was published internationally in the UNDP supported Digital Review of Asia Pacific 2003/2004, when the South China Morning Post in Hongkong had written there would be Internet censorship in Cambodia:

“Dear Sir,

“I do not know where SCMP got this news (“Planned Net law ‘threat to democracy,’” May 31, 1999) , but I can assure you that I am the one who has been fighting and continues to fight for the freedom of Internet access and the free flow of information in general. Everyday I find in my e-mail all kinds of information including some mail insulting me.

“This is a fact of life. When we never attempt to control the import of books and magazines into Cambodia why would we want to block the Internet?…

“Please be assured that I am very supportive of this form of communication and I will spare no effort in defending it. I hope you can help communicate this assurance to all of your subscribers and, if you have any problem concerning this issue, please feel free to contact me.

“Your sincerely,

“Khieu Kanharith”

It is important to recognize that questions of “Cambodian culture” are raised regularly by many different kinds of news. For example, the almost weekly news about the brutal rape and murder of Cambodian children raises questions about how this destruction of human culture is being handled, and no efforts to block the Internet in Cambodia could ever prevent that.

Furthermore, the blocking of the Reahu site will be reported around the world and will attract much more attention than the site would ever have received without such action. That is what also had happened when the introduction of 3G mobile phones was delayed – for fear they could deliver pornography to those who can afford the high cost of this new 3G technology, while crude pornography continues to be cheaply available all over the country where CDs are being sold.

What a pity, that there will again be a flood of negative attention on Cambodia, just as it happened when the prohibition of the Global Witness book on deforestation problems Cambodia’s Family Trees stimulated worldwide attention, which it never could have gained without the prohibition.

Please recommend The Mirror also to your colleagues and friends.

The wide international interest The Mirror finds is reflected in the fact that during the last two days only, people in 45 countries read The Mirror.

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