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Overseas Cambodians told cyber law applies

The Cambodian Center for Independent Media says Cambodian Americans may be affected by a proposed cybercrime law
The Cambodian Center for Independent Media says Cambodian Americans may be affected by a proposed cybercrime law. Eli Meixler

Overseas Cambodians told cyber law applies

Cambodia's diaspora community is being recruited in a campaign for greater transparency regarding a controversial cybercrime law that critics say would muzzle dissent in the Kingdom.

An unofficial copy of the proposed bill leaked in April criminalises online content that “slanders or undermines” government agencies, and according to the Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM), Cambodians living overseas could be held accountable for flouting the law if it passes.

“Critically, this law could also give Cambodian authorities extraterritorial jurisdiction to prosecute ‘crimes’ committed outside of Cambodia,” reads a letter sent from CCIM to several Cambodian-American associations in the US on Tuesday.

“As a member of the Cambodian community abroad, this law will directly affect you, and we are therefore asking your help in petitioning the government for greater transparency in the drafting process.”

CCIM communications coordinator Amanda King told the Post, however, that the likelihood of the US extraditing its own citizens would admittedly be low, considering freedom-of-speech protections in the US.

“I highly doubt that [the US] would extradite, but those who come to Cambodia on travel" could be affected, she said.

King added that after enlisting Cambodian-Americans, the campaign would spread to other Cambodian diaspora communities, starting with Australia.

The message is “part of a larger campaign” for transparency, King said.

Last month, a coalition of NGOs called on the government to share the draft cybercrime law and consult with civil society before sending it to the National Assembly from the Council of Ministers.

Spokesman Phay Siphan told the Post yesterday that the law hadn’t budged.

“We don’t have anything yet”, he said, adding that the CCIM was “misleading” in its claims.

“They have their own agenda. They’re not independent.”

It remains unclear how much the diaspora community’s support would tip the balances.

A petition circulated by the CCIM had garnered 101 supporters as of last night.

“I can’t say having the diaspora community can push the law in our favour,” said King of the CCIM.

“At the end of the day, it’s the government’s decision.”

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