The pro-government Khmer Times ran a story December 7 about Chinese telecom giant Huawei with a KT byline that, while not marked as advertising, was transparently a Huawei press release being passed off as journalism.
The article, “Huawei Cloud: Building a Fully–connected, Intelligent Cambodia,” quoted Huawei Cambodia’s CEO, who said “we work with the government and private sectors to accelerate digital transformation.”
In 2015, the Interior Ministry’s internal security department began installing surveillance equipment to monitor internet traffic on Cambodian ISPs. That surveillance gear was reportedly of Chinese origin.
Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer, Meng Wanzhou, was arrested in Canada on December 1 and is set to be extradited to the United States to face charges stemming from Huawei’s sales of telecommunications gear to Iran, despite US and UN sanctions over its nuclear weapons program. Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, allegedly headed Huawei’s covert sales to Iran.
While much of China’s telecommunications systems run on Huawei gear, the US, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Japan are banning or moving away from Huawei equipment, especially on 5G cell phone networks, over national security concerns. Germany, India and Canada are also considering whether to ban Huawei gear.
Huawei Cambodia has a checkered past involving local news media. In November 2016, Kevin Weng, a Chief Technical Officer of Huawei Cambodia, wrecked several tuk tuks and a motorbike while driving drunk and then fled the scene.
Numerous local media outlets showed images of his wrecked BMW. But many articles and photos were soon scrubbed from online sites amid reports that Huawei was paying publishers to delete coverage of the incident.
Daniel Mackevili, of the Cambodia Expats Online web forum, reported receiving an offer of $100 to delete discussion of the incident. The offer came from Ratha Chev of Marketing Solutions Asia, Ltd., a PR firm retained by Huawei. Mackevili refused the offer and instead reported on it in the forum.