Draft Telecoms Law Approved By Council of Ministers

The Council of Ministers on Friday signed off on a potentially sweeping draft law that would regulate the country’s telecommunications sector, which a rights group warned in May could effectively nationalize private service providers.

The government has yet to officially release a copy of the new draft law, which has been in the works for years. In a statement yesterday, the council said it approved the 114-article draft during a meeting presided over by Prime Minister Hun Sen. The law will next be sent to the National Assembly for debate. 

“The main purpose of the law is to ensure the quality and effective use of infrastructure, networks and telecommunications services, encourage telecommunications investment, protect consumers and earn national revenue,” the statement said.

“The aim of this draft law is to determine the authority, management, regulation, monitoring, tracking operations of the telecommunications sector, and governance procedures.”

The scope of the law, it added, would be “all telecommunications operators in the Kingdom of Cambodia, except the security and national defense sectors.”

The statement provided no other details, and spokesmen for the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, which prepared the draft, could not be reached. Lay Mariveau, director general of the ministry’s Telecommunication Regulator of Cambodia (TRC), declined to comment.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan also could not be reached. But in a post on his Facebook page yesterday, he said the law would determine the Telecommunications Ministry’s authority over the “function and obligations” of the TRC, which was launched in 2012.

A copy of the law leaked in mid-2014 would have given the TRC enhanced powers to conduct investigations into telecommunications licenses and almost anything else it chose. It mentioned a right to privacy, but would also have required operators to provide the TRC with all of their service data. One article would have allowed it to order any operator to transfer control of its system to the ministry to “maintain national interest, security, stability, or public order.”

In a report on the state of Cambodia’s Internet freedoms in May, rights group Licadho warned of the consequences of the leaked draft’s broad sweep.

“It appears to aim at nothing less than the extension of government control over the very architecture of the Internet itself,” the report said.

“Taken as a whole, the draft Law on Telecommunications appears to be nothing short of an attempt to establish overarching central control over Cambodia’s Internet and telecommunications infrastructure,” it added. “In essence, the law envisions the de facto nationalization of Cambodia’s telecoms industry.”

It remains unknown whether any changes were made to the draft approved by the Council of Ministers.

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