In the technology era, the world has changed in term of the way of living, communication and freedom of speak. Through the use of new media and digital tools, young activists of both genders are able disseminate views on impact social and political issues, including country’s besieged environment resources (Freedom House, 2013).
According to Ministry of Posts and Telecommunication’s 2014 report, the number of Internet users in Cambodia has increased to 3.8 million, a 42.7 percent jump compare to 2.7 million in 2013 (The Cambodia Daily, 2014).
To find out the development of freedom of expression and government’s intervention in the cyber world, we will look to four aspects: Facebook, blog, mobile phone, and cyber regulation.
Since the Facebook has flown in Cambodia, the new trend of people’s thinking has changed. They have their own media to express their opinions, ideas and emotions. Among those media, Facebook is the most popular new media.
The number of Cambodian Facebook subscriptions who have registered over 900,000 increased by 31 per cent between May 2012 and March 2013 (Social Backers, 2013).There is an estimate nearly 80 per cent of Cambodian Facebook users are under the age of 34.
According to Asia Pacific Bulletin (2013), Facebook is the primarily an entertainment website to an alternative news resource and platform tor self-expression. Opposition party uses Facebook to spread issues of human rights, social justice, corruption, education, and unemployment (Asia Pacific Bulletin, 2013). During the July 2013 national election, the booming of Facebook effects to voter’s decision. Both Hun Sen, strong man of ruling party Cambodian People’s Party, claimed his Facebook page had 150, 000 followers after his counterpart Sam Rainsy, leader of Cambodian National Rescue Party announced his page gained 250,000 likes.
Facebook, a recent and to date media tool in Cambodia, hasn’t been subject to censor by government (Asia Pacific Bulletin, 2013). Prime Minister Hun Sen said,“The government has no policy to close Facebook, but I would like to appeal to people not to let Facebook become a tool to damage social stability and insult people. The government encourages youth to use Facebook, we encourage them to use [the internet] and the speed should be fast so that they can share updated news. We can take advantage of Facebook to serve the people’s interest,” (SEA Globe, 2013).
However, there is still threat from the government official on the freedom of expression. According to Cambodian Center for Human Rights (2013), polices use the threat of deformation against a teacher after he described the Phnom Penh Police impounding his new motorbike on his Facebook account. After seeing the teacher’s post on Facebook, polices asked him to delete it otherwise there is something wrong with him. Seriously, there was a kidnapped case and the court sentenced 23-year-old girl to life in prison after finding her guilty of the premeditated murder of a 19-year-old woman she had met on Facebook (The Cambodia Daily, 2013).
In 2013 the Cambodian government requested Facebook turn over a user’s data as part of an official investigation, but the U.S.-based social networking giant declined to comply with the request (The Cambodia Daily, 2013).
Besides Facebook, Cambodian citizens also use blog to show their voices in society in various issues from personal experience to politic viewpoint. There is 3,000 bloggers in the Kingdom (VOA, 2013). According to Cambodia Communication Review (2010), Cambodian bloggers age between 20 and 29, and are well educated. Most of the bloggers write in English rather than Khmer because of lacking of the open source Khmer—Khmer Unicode. Most topics talk about personal experience, and a few blog about politics. Since 2011, at least three blogs hosted oversea have been blocked for content criticized government (Freedom House, 2013).
It is a bit surprising for a developing country with 85% of about 15 million populations is famer has 1.3 phones for each. There are about 19 million mobile phones in Cambodia (SEA Globe, 2013). The number increased sharply to 98 per cent compare to previous year. There are 10 mobile phone service providers.
Phone SMS was popular among Cambodian teenagers before the coming of social media like Facebook. They used it for chatting to share experience in studying and living, and also love affair.
Although the presence of new media, it’s been used by the politic parties as an election campaign tool during 2007 and 2013 election. The National Election Committee (NEC) asked the phone service providers to stop the SMS service a day before 2007 Commune Election. In 2008 election, CPP used SMS to spread the victory of Cambodian-Thai’s Preah Vihear dispute (Freedom House, 2013). Moreover, in 2013 national election, NEC used the voice-based information service to provide voting detail.
Ministry of Post and Telecommunication has attempted to limit the phone service’s price, and wanted to ban the bonus for the users in April 2013. But after the complaint from the public, the ministry has lifted the ban (Freedom House, 2013).