3G Phones Formally Banned; Internet Spared

Minister of Posts and Telecom­mun­ications So Khun formally an­nounced Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ban on the latest generation mo­bile phones on Monday, urging phone companies not to be disappointed and adding that the ban would not be extended to the In­ter­net.

Hun Sen announced a 10-year ban on the “3G” mobile phones on Fri­day, after his wife Bun Rany and the wives of several other top government officials petitioned him to do so, warning that the phones could be used by women to se­duce men with pornography.

“The postponement is made on­ly on the video phone, but the In­ter­net ISP is not banned. It still op­er­ates as usual,” So Khun said at a news conference at his ministry.

“Phone operators, please don’t be disappointed. Please understand the ministry,” he said. “[The 3G technology] is not banned forever. It is just postponed for a while.”

Representatives of MobiTel and the AZ group of companies, both of which had been vying to introduce the first 3G network to Cam­bo­dia, attended the conference.

MobiTel is headed by Phnom Penh Chamber of Commerce President Kith Meng.

AZ is headed by Ung Bun Hauv, a lawmaker in Hun Sen’s ruling CPP. The AZ company rose to prom­inence on the back of a lucrative government contract to levy ve­hicle tolls on National Route 4.

Responding to a reporter’s question, So Khun said the AZ group had nothing to do with the 3G ban, which will scuttle MobiTel’s efforts to launch the network first.

“AZ did not instigate [the ban] for the postponement of other companies,” So Khun said. “AZ did not know anything about this.”

So Khun stressed that the ban ap­plies equally to both companies.

Still, he said, MobiTel, which had been hoping to launch a network as soon as June 1, may be hit hardest by the decision.

“I think the one who would be im­pacted could be MobiTel. [But] AZ must also change its plan,” So Khun said.

MobiTel marketing manager Si­tha Pom and finance manager Fran­­cisco Perol, who attended the conference, both declined to comment on the ban.

AZ staff at the conference re­fused to talk to reporters. Con­tact­ed by telephone, Lim Bun Suor, di­rector of AZ, declined to comment.

So Khun also read out a May 25 letter from Hun Sen, which states that the 3G phones should be held off for an “appropriate time in the fu­ture [when] the social morality is im­proved.”

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