Net Co Denies Blocking Global Witness Website

A Cambodian Internet service provider on Monday denied media reports that it had blocked its customers from accessing the website of environmental campaigners Global Witness, who on Thursday accused the government of mismanaging the oil and mining industries.

Global Witness also responded on Monday, saying it had itself denied access as many as ten Asian Internet providers after detecting what it believed to be hostile electronic communications.

A local media report on Monday claimed that the company AngkorNet had deliberately blocked access to the NGO’s Web site, a claim which was repeated by the official Chinese news agency Xinhua and which caused the Cambodian Center for Human Rights on Monday to release a statement expressing concern.

AngkorNet CEO Sok Channda denied the report and said the company had not confirmed it to the media.

She said any blockage was likely due to the fact that a proxy server maintained by AngkorNet—through which Internet customers access information such as Web pages and e-mail—had been “blacklisted” as a source of bulk, unsolicited e-mail, or “spam,” causing the server housing the Global Witness Web site to deny access to AngkorNet subscribers.

“We did not block that Web site but the Web site blocked our proxy server because of spam,” she said. “I have checked with all my staffers and no one confirmed that to that newspaper.”

Tens of thousands of such junk messages per second have been sent from computers using AngkorNet and the company was near to resolving the problem on Monday morning, she added. “It’s a normal problem which any Internet service provider may encounter,” she said.

Jeff Kaye, Global Witness director of finance and resources, said by telephone from London that Global Witness had by Monday detected “a low-level attack” from Internet domains in Phnom Penh, Thailand, Hong Kong and mainland China, which had appeared to request information from the Web site but had not responded to its delivery, leaving open channels of communication that consumed valuable bandwidth.

It was unclear whether this had involved AngkorNet as such attacks can be masked by using other proxy servers. Only a few hundred attempts to access Global Witness from Phnom Penh had been detected, he added.

The Global Witness Web site appeared to be accessible via an AngkorNet Internet connection on Monday. Minister of Posts and Telecommunications So Khun on Monday said he was unaware of any decision to block Internet access to Global Witness.

  (Additional reporting by Douglas Gillison)

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