PHNOM PENH —
A senior government adviser on information technology says a draft of a cybercrime law is unnecessary and could lead to demonstrations and unrest if passed as currently written.
Critics say the draft law, made public last week, criminalizes online behavior in vague language open to abuse by authorities that could curb online freedoms.
Many Cambodians have found cyberspace a place for political commentary, opening an unprecedented space for government criticism, online discussions, and the dissemination of information.
Phu Leewood, advisor to the Cambodian government and former secretary general of NiDA, called the drafting process on the draft law “completely wrong.”
The Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, which drafted the law, should have had a public comment period and consulted with civic organizations before producing a draft.
“If there is no such process, it means Cambodian voices are ignored,” he said. “If such a law is passed, there will be strong reaction from the public, as it hasn’t been involved.”
The law will affect many of Cambodia’s younger generation, who go online often and use social media as a major means of communication.
“Some articles seem to abuse their rights,” Phu Leewood said. “Thus, without their involvement, when the law is enacted, it could lead to nonrecognition of the law, demonstrations and accusations of the government as authoritarian.”
Phu Leewood said the draft law was written by people who lack IT knowledge, and without consultation with legal experts, judges or prosecutors. As a result, it has many flaws on what constitutes a cybercrime and how it can be prosecuted.
The way things stand now, the criminal code can be used to prosecute offenders, so a separate law isn’t necessary, he said.
Government officials have been unavailable for comment on the draft, which was publicized online last week by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.
Chak Sopheap, executive director for the center, says the law, if passed in its current form, will be dangerous to free speech.
“Some of its articles are broad, and the court and competent institutions can interpret them as they will,” she said.