At a speech at Preah Vihear temple on Saturday, Prime Minister Hun Sen endorsed the use of telecom company Metfone, which is owned by the Vietnamese military, and instructed soldiers to use the mobile telephone operator in the future.
“Last night I called [RCAF Deputy Commander] Kun Kim using the 012 [MobiTel] system, and we could not connect to each other to talk,” he said. “I had to use Metfone instead. It’s easy to connect.”
“I take this opportunity to order Defense Minister Tea Banh and Telecommunications Minister So Khun to prepare an underground cable line for Metfone so that it reaches” Preah Vihear, he said.
Mr Hun Sen’s remarks coincide with a push by Metfone to finish laying fiber optic cable for its new third-generation wireless network, which is set to debut this year, according to a company employee speaking on condition of anonymity.
According to the employee, Metfone is in the process of laying 13,000 km of fiber optic cable before launching its 3G service as early as February or March. There are concrete plans to expand the network to Preah Vihear temple, he said.
“With the fiber optic network, which will be the largest in Cambodia. We can deploy the 3G network with high-speed access,” he said.
The premier made much of this network, saying that when it is finished it will be used by the military in lieu of “public phones” and walkie-talkies, and will be more secure than traditional mobile services that use satellites.
“When it is complete, we have to have it for the military security and police,” he said. “All border police have to use the cable phone…and this Metfone system could help national security public administration.”
“It is hugely careless that you use the sky phone system to order the military,” he added.
Metfone, which is operated by the Vietnamese military-owned company Viettel, marked its entrance into the Cambodian mobile telephone market last year by distributing one million free SIM cards to soldiers and students here. At the time, defense officials brushed off concerns that allowing a foreign military to control calls made by Cambodian soldiers would compromise security.
Major-General Srey Dek, Commander of the RCAF 3rd Division, which is based at Preah Vihear temple, said yesterday that most of his soldiers use Metfone because it is easy for them to connect with each other on the network.
“I know that most of the soldiers at the temple use the Metfone system. What the premier said is correct,” he said.
MobiTel is owned by The Royal Group, whose chairman, Kith Meng, declined yesterday to comment on the premier’s remarks.
“I don’t know about that and have no statement about it,” he said.