Government spokesman and Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said on Thursday that he does not support a petition calling on Prime Minister Hun Sen to ban the latest generation of mobile phones.
The “3G” or third-generation phones, which allow users to access the internet and send video images, have been dubbed a threat to Khmer culture by the wives of powerful officials who believe that Cambodian men could be seduced by lascivious women wielding such technology.
“To ban the technology is a mistake,” Khieu Kanharith said.
“If we ban [the phones] then we should also ban using a car, because they can use that to transport a girl,” he said.
He added that the 3G phone system is an important element of the country’s economic growth, as it allows faster exchange of information. “The negative side of this technology is less than the positive,” Khieu Kanharith said.
Two Cambodian companies, MobiTel company and the AZ group of companies, headed by CPP lawmaker Ung Bun Hauv, are vying to be the first to introduce the latest mobile phone model to the country, he added. Nuth Narang, secretary of state for the Ministry of Land Management, said that he has also signed the petition, which bears the signatures of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s wife, Prince Norodom Ranariddh’s wife and the wife of Cabinet Minister Sok An.
“I supported it because there’s no need to have a phone with a camera,” Nuth Narang said.
Minister of Rural Development Lu Laysreng said that he also plans to sign the petition, as women might use the phones to send pornography to government officials in order to make their wives jealous.
“It’s too early to have such technology used in the country,” he added.
A spokesman for MobiTel said on condition of anonymity said that banning the phones would keep Cambodia one step behind other countries in the region. “3G is the latest phone technology in the world. It is being used in Singapore, Thailand, and Cambodia also wants it.”
MobiTel owner Kith Meng said by telephone from the US on Thursday that he was dumbstruck by the drive to ban 3G technology. “I cannot say anything at all,” he said.