The wives of seven senior government officials, including those of Prime Minister Hun Sen and Cabinet Minister Sok An, have petitioned Hun Sen to ban the use of the latest generation of mobile phones, saying the technology could be used to disseminate pornography.
As well as Bun Rany and Anny-Sok An, Prince Norodom Ranariddh’s wife Princess Marie and Ing Mony, the wife of Supreme Court President Dith Monty, also put their names to the petition, which accuses the video capability of the phones of destroying Khmer culture and polluting the minds of teenagers.
“We are the leaders, wives and leading women,” the signatories said in their petition, dated Friday.
“We are all very concerned that bad people will use modern communication and information technology in the wrong direction and it will make a serious negative affect on morality and social welfare,” they warned.
The petition also called for the government to “seriously punish” any one found to be using the phones to lure men into sexual encounters by sending them explicit pictures.
“We all would like to request the Royal Government to issue a regulation prohibiting the individual use of this modern phone,” the petition reads.
Ros Soyoeur, the wife of Minister of Land Management Im Chhun Lim, and Men Sam An, the female Minister of National Assembly and Senate Relations and Inspection, also signed the petition. So did Ou San, wife of Say Chhum, head of the CPP’s central committee, as did Say Chhum himself, bringing the number of names on the list to nine.
So Khun, minister of posts and telecommunication, said Wednesday that he had not received the petition, but would implement a ban on the phones if Hun Sen orders one.
He added that MobiTel, which is headed by Kith Meng, president of the Phnom Penh Chamber of Commerce, is planning to introduce a 3G video phone network next month.
The generic term “3G” refers to third generation mobile phone technology, which offers Internet connections and the possibility of video conferencing.
So Khun said he was unaware of whether 3G phones had the capacity to corrupt Cambodian culture, but added that the AZ group of companies, which is headed by CPP lawmaker Ung Bun Hauv, also intends to introduce a 3G network to Cambodia.
MobiTel has overtaken the well-connected AZ in its efforts to launch the network first, as MobiTel had more available cash, he added.
“[MobiTel] has moved one step ahead because it is very expensive,” So Khun said, adding that the petition may have been prompted by MobiTel handing out free phones to government officials to test the system.
Kith Meng declined comment on Wednesday, while Ung Bun Hauv could not be reached for comment.
Chuon Vandorn, AZ’s general manager, confirmed that AZ is hoping to introduce a 3G network, adding that the petition may be misguided.
“It’s better off to improve the social morality” than “block technology,” Chuon Vandorn said.
Former minister of women’s affairs and current Sam Rainsy Party member Mu Sochua welcomed the concern expressed in the petition regarding tradition and culture, though she called the incident “a dispute among the elite” noting the average person couldn’t afford the new mobile phones.
The wives of the elite would be better off protecting Khmer culture by monitoring the behavior of their husbands, Mu Sochua said.
“They should help to improve morality, particularly among their husbands,” she added.
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