A new Web site that allows users to share videos about Cambodia with the online community has been welcomed as an important tool for freedom of expression, but the government has warned that it must be vigilant about its content.
A browse through CamboTube.com Tuesday evening revealed that the most popular video currently was of a daily commute in Phnom Penh. Other videos posted included documentaries about the Khmer Rouge, the secret bombing of Cambodia by the US, and a clip featuring a user’s pet dog.
However, video sharing sites-like Google’s popular YouTube-have shown vast potential for politically subversive use, as shown recently with the release of footage of demonstrations by monks in Burma and a video deemed insulting to the revered Thai King Bhumidol.
Both incidents caused those respective governments to clamp down on the use of such sites.
Cambodian government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said authorities are not concerned about CamboTube being used to attack the government.
“If there is something wrong on the site, something which relates to pedophilia or terrorism for example, then we would take action,” he said Tuesday. “Sites like this must operate within the frameworks, traditions and customs of Cambodia.”
Independent journalism trainer Moeun Chhean Nariddh said CamboTube could be a very important tool to promote the free flow of information and opinions in Cambodia,
There should be no concern about the content, he said. “In a democracy, information and opinions should be free.”
CamboTube’s immediate impact however, Moeun Chhean Nariddh said, would be limited due to the lack of broadband access and low internet use in Cambodia.
There are no specific laws or restrictions against online publications in Cambodia at present.
“Maybe this is because the use is not so common,” said Moeun Chhean Nariddh. “I believe [the government] will continue to allow this type of video sharing, but once they realize it can be used against them, it will be shut down.”
CamboTube founder Jason Rosette, a US national, said Monday it was not his intention to be a “rabble-rouser,” and that content on the site would be screened for unsuitable content.
“We will be doing that according to our own judgement and common sense,” he said.
But Rosette said that the three-month-old site, which he described as a “democratic forum,” was a global network. “What is proper in one environment is not in another,” he said.
Rosette said he hoped CamboTube would attract more Cambodian users, who are becoming increasingly Web-savvy.
CamboTube is intended, he said, to be “a mirror of what people are feeling and expressing.”
Phu Lee Wood, secretary-general of the National Information Communication Technology Development Authority, said the government was supportive of initiatives that promoted the improvement of information technology.
“Here in Cambodia people are free to start up such Web sites so long as they align between freedom of information and respect for local culture,” he said.