Conversations on Draft Cyber Laws

It’s been two days since the ODC team arrived in Siem Reap, and today was the second day of the ICT Camp, the conference from my earlier posts. There are nearly 100 participants, mostly students, journalists, and civil society from Cambodia. There are almost 30 more speakers, not only from Cambodia, but also from Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Japan, and the UK.


The camp opened with a panel discussion by members of the government and journalists, moderated by a member of ODC, with a question and answer session afterwards. The government representative spoke about the ongoing drafting of Cambodia’s cybercrime law. An alleged draft had been leaked in 2020, which caused concern among human rights organizations; however, the law was never passed. In this panel, the government representative said that the drafters had consulted leading tech companies such as Google and Oracle; multiple camp participants, particularly members of the media, presented their concerns that not enough local stakeholders in Internet governance had been consulted.


So far, I have given presentations on data privacy and comparative cyber law. It has been a challenge assessing the success of my presentation, both because cyber and data privacy law can have a steep learning curve, and because the presentations are conducted in English to speakers of Khmer whose second language is English. I have also gone to presentations by other speakers on raising awareness of data privacy issues and on environmental data.


The camp ended the day with a trip to Angkor Wat, a complex of temples and palaces built from the 9th to 13th century, and a UNESCO world heritage site. After my participation in the 37th Jean-Pictet competition, I welcomed the sight of the blue shield emblem designating protection under the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. While there are different causes for damage to the site, many statues were taken by art thieves in the 1990s as a result of post-conflict issues. Internet use has changed even this field of law, and a search of online auction houses turned up several Angkor statues for sale. However, just as data and AI can be used to violate universal human rights, it could also be used to predict the movements of smugglers, verify supply chains, and conduct market forensics—and it is strong, clear laws that divide these positive outcomes from negative ones.