On Wednesday, the Cambodian government enacted a decree establishing a national internet gateway, paving the way for the creation of a China-style Great Firewall. Implementing a centralized censorship and surveillance infrastructure of this scale allows Prime Minister Hun Sen to tighten the noose on what remains of internet freedom in Cambodia. The decree should be repealed.
Under the decree, all internet traffic will be routed through a single portal, the National Internet Gateway (NIG). On paper, NIG operators will enforce government orders to block or disconnect any network activities deemed a risk to national security, social order, culture, and other vaguely defined ills. Broadly speaking, the NIG will be used to throttle any network activity at the government’s will. Although the decree establishes a complaints procedure, there are serious questions about oversight and the right to remedy in light of the lack of judicial independence in Cambodia.
The decree is set to take effect in early 2022. The timing is noteworthy as Cambodia will hold commune elections next year, with national elections to follow in 2023. Once functioning, the NIG will make it much easier for the government to block the websites of independent news media and civil society, as it did to at least 17 websites ahead of the 2018 national election.