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Cambodia Denies New Law Sets Up China-style Internet Controls

People walk using their mobile phones in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on February 18, 2021. (REUTERS/Cindy Liu)

Cambodia denied on Friday accusations that a new law setting up a national internet gateway would usher in Chinese-style surveillance and censorship, adding that it would soon draft a law to protect personal data.

The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPTC) issued a statement after an outcry over this week's enactment of a sub-decree requiring all internet traffic to be routed within a national gateway within a year.

"The allegations with regard to the establishment of the National Internet Gateway are unfounded, politically motivated, untrue and contradictory to the objectives stated in the Sub-Decree," the statement said.

"MPTC would like to reiterate that no provision in the Sub-Decree authorizes the collection of consumers’ data and restriction on freedom of expression," it added.

Critics have said longtime Cambodian leader Hun Sen could use the law to replicate China's tight internet controls that block Western media apps including Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, and censor content that could undermine the ruling Communist Party.

The Cambodian government statement said most countries have internet gateways and the new law was passed after consultation with experts and private telecoms operators.

The new gateway comes as Hun Sen's government faces international criticism over a crackdown that has decimated civil society and the political opposition, resulting in a power monopoly for his party, and criminal charges and jail terms for many of its rivals.