Government Order May Close Many of City’s Internet Cafes

The open-source mapping website Urban Voice launched a campaign yesterday against a government order banning Internet cafes within 500 meters of schools that will effectively make it illegal to operate such businesses in much of Phnom Penh.

“Implementation of this order would mean the closure of the majority of Internet cafes in central Phnom Penh…severely limiting access to the Internet for the majority of Cambodians who do not have a personal computer,” reads a flyer that Urban Voice began distributing online yesterday for its “Save the Internet Cafes” campaign.

A circular sent to government offices from Telecommunications Minister So Khun on November 12 prohibits the use of Internet cafes by students and people under the age of 18 and outlines numerous dangers that the Internet poses, such as terrorism, economic crimes and the distribution of pornography.

The order also lists vaguely worded regulations prohibiting people from playing games on the Internet.

The circular has been adapted into a contract that Internet cafe owners throughout the country are being asked to sign, according to Mr. Khun.

Despite the order, students and Internet cafes in some parts of Phnom Penh were going about their business—and game playing—as usual yesterday.

At an Internet shop near Russian market, and a couple blocks away from Hun Sen Bun Rany Phsar Doeum Thkov High School, Chhay Tola, the owner of the shop, said that the law would put her out of business if it is enforced properly.

“Without students, I would not be able to stay open,” she said as groups of young boys in white school uniforms played games on the computers inside her shop.

Kim Samean, who owns another Internet cafe nearby, said that although the order might lead to the demise of his business, it was already difficult for him to turn a profit as more shops have opened over the past decade and more people are accessing the Internet elsewhere.

(Additional reporting by Kaing Menghun)

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