Digital Media in Cambodia
- 1 Digital Literacy
- 2 Digital Media platforms
- 3 Traditional Media Platforms
- 4 Impacts of Social Media
- 5 Controversies
- 6 Recommendations
- 7 Case Study
- 8 Hear from the Cambodians
- 9 References
The expansion of internet services has also been overshadowed by the mobile phenomenon. Internet uptake rates remained disturbingly low for many years, presenting one of the lowest penetrations in the region. Of course, the limited fixed-line infrastructure has been a major inhibiting factor in the rollout of both dial-up and ADSL internet services. The internet market started to change in 2007 when wireless broadband services first began to appear in a serious manner. There has been a surge in the number of operators interested in mobile broadband and especially WiMAX. By 2011 there had been a major upturn in internet numbers on the back of the increased broadband penetration. Overall penetration remained low, however.
Internet use is particularly high among Cambodian university students, with almost 90 per cent of them using the Internet at least a few times per week. Generally well-resourced financially and technically, they are among those who use the Internet the most and has it highly integrated into their lives, from seeking information to socializing, from accessing entertainment to completing academic tasks (Peou & Chea, 2010; Peou & Lwin, 2011). 53% of Cambodian university students have also expressed their opinions on the internet at least once in the last three months during the time of survey.
Cambodia is the first country in the world to have more mobile telephones than fixed telephones. There are 8.151 million mobile phones in use in 2010 as compared to 358,800 main telephone lines; that is 55 per 100 persons versus 2 per 100 persons. This is impressive growth considering only 1 million mobile phones were in use in 2005.
Mobile-cellular phone systems are widely used to bypass deficiencies in fixed-line network. While majority of mobile phone users are located in the capital, Phnom Penh, mobile phone coverage is rapidly expanding in rural areas, aided by competition among service providers.
Although the cell phone market in Cambodia has exploded as of late, they are still far behind when compared to neighboring countries. Its nearby neighbors have high market penetration, such as the Philippines with 71 percent and Thailand with 78.5 percent. Even Vietnam has a significantly larger cell phone market with 40 percent of the country accessing cell phones.
Digital Media platforms
The decades of political turbulence suffered has caused much of Cambodia to remain both in fear and in poverty. The low internet penetration in the country coupled with a conservative society, fearful of speaking their mind, has resulted in very low usage of the social media compared to its neighbours in the region. However, in recent times, the growth of the young population has brought about some positive developments – where more have started joining the digital media bandwagon.
Blogging has grown alongside the growth of internet usage in Cambodia before taking off in the early 2000s long before the use of any other digital media. An increasing number of young and tech savy Cambodians are taking advantage of blogging to share their thoughts and to exercise their freedom of expression. While it has been observed that many young people were quick to start and quit blogging, a dedicated group of bloggers remain, providing thoughtful commentary on issues facing the country. This group of bloggers also known as Cloggers are become increasingly influential even in the rural areas where access to the internet have been made possible through help from MNCs such as Microsoft and US aid agencies.
BlogSpot) was the most popular blogging software/platform for bloggers in Cambodia.
WordPress offers an easy-to-use blog platform as it allows for more localization. The ability to blog in their native Khmer language, has won over the hearts of several Cambodian bloggers.
Similarly, this is supported by findings of the online studies conducted by senior undergraduate in Media Management at the Department of Media and Communication (DMC). 
1. Bun Tharum Believed to be Cambodia’s first blogger, Bun Tharmun is also the founder of Team Cloggers, an originally small group of Cambodian bloggers which has expanded into thousands today. Tharmun’s blog covers a wide range of topic from life around Phnom Penh to his views on societal problems such as gambling, domestic violence, corruption and the Khmer Rouge tribunal. His blog has become widely popular not just in Cambodia but outside of the country as well. Rebecca MacKinnon, a former CNN correspondent in Beijing and Tokyo, has written about Bun Tharum on Global Voices. His blog is also listed alongside expatriate bloggers in the Cambodia section of Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia.
Today, the 28-year-old writes for Asian Correspondent, is a contributing author to Global Voices, (an international community of bloggers who report on blogs and citizen media from around the world and a journalism fellow at The Phnom Penh Post through a Sasakawa Peace Foundation scholarship.
2. Sopheap Sopheap is perhaps Cambodia's most controversial blogger, touching on subjects like trafficking, corruption, forced land evictions and women's rights. Her public profile is brave; most political bloggers in Cambodia, such as the popular "Details are Sketchy" and "KI Media" blogs, are anonymous. "If everyone keeps silent to intimidation, intimidation will gain its position.”
"By making our voices heard, we can create change," she insists. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in international relations in Japan, which she credits for bringing new angles to her blog. 
Commercialisation of Blogging
While Blogs are used mainly to exercise free speech, to comment or report on news events and a variety of subjects on technology, culture and politics. More and more Khmer/Cambodian bloggers are inclined to earn money from blogging. Although there is no easy way to get money to their bank accounts, many of them are familiar with Google Adsense.
Cambodian Bloggers Summit
The highly successful Cambodian Bloggers Summit was held in August 2007 at Pannasastra University. It was a time for networking for over 200 bloggers, tech-savvy individuals and people from the media. Knowledge and ideas were shared across topics such as obstacles and measures to be taken to make the cyberspace available to everyone.
Micro blogging in Cambodia is still a relatively new concept, as opposed to blogging and social networking sites. Cambodians are generally more familiar with the concept of updating their status on social networking platforms and voicing out on blogs, rather than short text on Micro blogging platforms.
Twitter being the predominant micro blogging platform has also seen increasing growth of influential Twitter users, many of whom are journalist, whose tweets provide useful insights into Cambodian perspectives.
Top 5 Cambodian Twitter Users
Social Networking Sites
Social networking sites are gaining popularity in Cambodia especially among the younger generations where many uses these sites to seek fun, socialize and maintain friendship. Increasingly, organizations, groups and individuals have used social network sites to exchange ideas and mobilize supporters in a number of ways, from branding and businesses to celebrity and politics.
There are currently 492,040 Facebook users in Cambodia. The largest age group is currently 18 - 24 with total of 246, 020 users, followed by the users in the age of 25 - 34. There are 61% male users and 39% female users in Cambodia.
In around 2008, several Facebook “clones” were developed in Cambodia to suit the local consumer’s Internet usage preferences. For example, SocialFrienz was said to have over taken many other Cambodian Social Networks in a short period of time and aims to be the leading Cambodia social network. Similar to Facebook, it provides basic social networking tools like profile, blogs, pictures and comments as well as additional functions such as music, videos, chat, polls, events and groups. However, by late 2009, the website ceased its operations.
Other social network sites still functioning are:
Mitleap The first social networking website developed in Khmer language, making it easy for Cambodian who cannot read English to enjoy the same online experience.
Soksabai A Cambodian Entertainment, Resource and Cambodian Social Network dedicated to bringing the best Cambodian content on the web in one place. Not only does it allow members to share songs, videos and photos, members are also able to join into discussion groups through the forum page made available.
Khnmersocialiser Unlike usual social network sites, Khmer socialiser aims to bring people with the common desire to help the poor together. The site’s email, instant messenger features and forums allow members to share and discuss ideas with one another.
Khmer 440 is a online forum which aims to create a community for people living, working, teaching and traveling in Cambodia through discussion boards. Till date, it has 23,622 members and over 17,000 topics discussed.
|Professional social networking site|
|Search engine|| Google |
Traditional Media Platforms
Traditional media platforms in Cambodia include newspapers, television stations, radio stations and magazines.
Newspapers remain to be the most popular media platform in Cambodia. While there are more than 100 newspaper publications in Cambodia, only a few key newspaper publishers maintain regular publication schedules or have paid staff. Publications for some may be inaccurate or biased as they are managed by political parties or individual politicians. As a result, the more popular presses are often established vernacular dailies by foreign-language press as the journalists keep to a higher standard of ethics, making them more credible.
Many Cambodian people buy Khmer-language magazines published in Cambodia. However, most magazines are related to lifestyle and fashion as Cambodians generally read magazines for leisure. Out of nine English language magazines published locally, only one focusing on business and economics in Cambodia.
Many Cambodian people rely on radio for information about events happening in both Cambodia and Australia. There are at least three major radio stations to which Cambodians listen: SBS Khmer radio; the Community Radio Program on 2GLF 89.3 FM (attached to the Khmer Community of New South Wales); and the Ethnic Radio Program, 99.9FM. Radio Free Asia and BBC Khmer are also popular broadcasters, accessed through the internet.
A small number of Cambodian families are able to afford satellite TV to keep up to date with what happens in Cambodia, and view entertainment from their homeland. The Cambodia-based TV networks usually have local programming, including serials, variety shows and game shows. However, many people in Cambodia do not watch Cambodia-produced television, instead applying for cable television from Thailand to view Thai programs. Cambodians living abroad can watch Khmer television content via Thaicom from Thailand, Myanmar, and Vietnam.
Regulatory Agencies of Traditional Media
- Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications
- Ministry of Information
- Ministry of Interior
Trends of Traditional Media Platforms
Decline in Print Media
Internet publications that can be viewed through internet-connected desktop, laptop and mobile phone are dominating the readership market in Cambodia. Print media, accounting for over 300 media across the country is competing fiercely in a small market of advertising in the country, inhabited by over 14 million people. It is an emerging trend that readership in print media is dropping to a lower rate. Electronic media viewers or listeners are increasing in quantity as most people prefer entertainment program to news desk.
Causes for The Trend
1. Availability and Low Pricing of Internet Publication
Internet publication is increasingly popular as internet access becomes more available and pricing is even more affordable across Cambodia. Many local-language newspapers go online for free like kampucheathmey, Cen.com, Dap News, Koh Santepheap Daily and so on.
2. Increasing Internet Literacy
The percentage of internet users in the past 10 years increased by 1,200 per cent to some 78,000 people, according to Kim Kierans, who has written “Cambodia-a land of opportunity” in Asia's Media Innovators of Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.
Top 5 Cambodian News Websites
- Dam Am Pil - DAP provides credible news based from their sister printed newspaper Dam Am Pil
- Radio Free Asia: Cambodia - An independent online news provider based on the Radio Free Asia, a nonprofit organization.
- Koh Sante Pheap - Receives a lot of visitors daily and offers a variety of local and foreign news.
- Phnom Penh Post - A well known Cambodian printed newspaper in English popular among expatriates in Cambodia.
- Cambodia Express News (CEN) - CEN provides very credible news to the public.
Impacts of Social Media
Local businesses in Cambodia are generally lack of present on mainstream social media such as Twitter and Facebook. According to Socialbakers, only 2 Cambodian brands reach out 10 thousand people or more on Facebook. Recent PR incident of ANZ Royal, one of largest Cambodian banks, drew PR managers’ attention onto social media. ANZ rose minimum deposit in February 2012. Yet doubts and rumors raised in Twitter about this new policy were ignored because company’s absent on Twitter. ANZ didn’t realize the situation until media reported the event. Yet damage had been done.
Compared to their competitors, multinational companies (MNC) in Cambodia have much more exposure on social media sites. While benefit from such advantage, these MNCs face extra corporate social responsibility (CSR) challenges. Garment is one of the industries which under close observation of organizations such as Asia Floor Wage Cambodia. Adidas is a successful example of dealing with social media pressure with in time manner and right approach. The company has been showing positive attitude toward minimum wage challenge posed by GNOs since 2011. Being one of suppliers for London 2012 Olympic Games, the company also invited media to visit its supplier factories in Cambodia to increase transparency of labor working condition. PlayFair2012 (Facebook account, Twitter account) made positive comments about Adidas actions.
Societycase studies below.
Non-Cambodians have also been using social media to help raise awareness of social issues within Cambodia. Foreigners who are internationally connected via social media use their external network to bring aid to Cambodia. Initiatives such as Passports with Purpose benefit the Cambodian society and also provide more support for the local NGOs.
Environment,which brought the world spotlight to its eco-tourism efforts. The conference recognized social media as an important tool in the successful branding of ecotourism destinations. Cambodia, in its continuous efforts to grow its ecotourism industry, will continue to conserve landmark environmental sites and embrace the social media to reach out to potential tourists from worldwide.
Traditionally, freedom of expression and traditional press has been controlled by the government.Since 2008, the government has embarked on an apparent legislative agenda to increase the legislative arsenal available to the judiciary in its pursuit of government critics. The new Penal Code contains nine provisions, which criminalize various forms of expression. In addition, there are forthcoming laws that regulate NGOs and unions severely undermine the freedoms of association and expression.
Therefore, non-government organizations (NGO) and civil society groups are increasingly embracing new means of disseminating and sharing information about human rights and issues often termed as politically sensitive through the electronic media.
Till date, the government has not implemented a blanket policy to censor online content and space to any degree commensurate to several of its neighbours in South East Asia . There is currently no regulatory regime in place online in Cambodia and in 2010, the government reportedly shelved plans to channel all traffic through a single state-owned Internet hub, avoiding a potential censorship situation like the “Great Firewall of China”. There is currently no regulatory regime in place online in Cambodia and in 2010, the government reportedly shelved plans to channel all traffic through a single state-owned Internet hub, avoiding a potential censorship situation like the “Great Firewall of China”.
Cases of Censorship
On 14 February 2011, The Phnom Penh Post reported that users of WiCam ISP server who attempted to access KiMedia received a message stating that the site had been “blocked as ordered by the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications of Cambodia”. The article cited an anonymous source within WiCam who confirmed that the block had been ordered by the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications on the grounds that KI-Media “impacts the government”. It was further reported in the press that the deputy director of the Directorate of Telecommunications Policy Regulation at the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, wrote an e-mail to 10 local ISP service provides to thank them for their efforts to block a number of popular anti-government websites.
The move to block these websites is reflective of the inability of the government to accept any criticism, however constructive, and heralds the extension of government censorship to the Internet. The reported blocking confirms the government’s commitment to controlling online content in much the same manner in which it controls traditional media.
In addition, the government called for the arrest and conviction of Seng Kunnaka, an employee with the UN Food Program in Phnom Penh who had printed articles from KI-Media and shared them with a handful of colleagues. This indicates that the government is equally ready to start punishing those who use the Internet to share views contrary to those of the government. As with its punishment of those who express opinions through traditional media, it is assumed that this conviction was intended much less as retribution than as a deterrent, a message to all Cambodians as to the potential cost of using the internet to express views that conflict with those of the government.
Major restricting factors of digital media development
- Limited media infrastructure (mobile phone coverage, Internet landlines, faster Internet speeds)
- 3G mobile phones not affordable for majority of Cambodians, esp rural citizens → Limited mobile phone penetration
- Government’s unwillingness to cede freedom of speech and freedom to the masses
Tips to Survive Digitally
Cambodia’s bloggers face resistance from the older generation and the government who chastise them for speaking openly about social ills and problems. While active censorship from the government (shutting down blogs and banning website-hosting services) is not as prevalent today, a more passive form of censorship exists, coming from pressure put on the bloggers by parents and family who are still afraid of a government reprisal.
Strategies for Businesses
While the use of the Internet is not widespread and limited to mainly youths and students, there is great potential in making use of various forms of digital media for business purposes. A great number of Cambodians are registered with the social networking site Facebook. This, in itself, represents an opportunity for businesses to market their products and services. Social media advertising and marketing can be less costly and more effective than traditional forms. It can be personalized for the intended audience and targeted at specific demographic groups. Making use of prominent blogs is also a way for businesses to reach out to its target consumers.
With the 3G network becoming established in Phnom Penh and other parts of Cambodia, businesses now can start established an online presence on the web. With a record number of Internet users in Cambodia today, businesses can reach this large pool of consumers easily. E-commerce is likely to becoming increasingly popular as more people receive convenient access to the Internet. Businesses can now implement online infrastructure (such as payment portals and delivery systems) to prepare for the trend of e-commerce.
Furthermore, it is sensible to target Internet users because generally, they belong to a more affluent, better educated demographic segment. They tend to be technologically-savvy and more willing to spend money online. Thus, businesses should start to expand their presence online and tap into this new market of Internet users.
Strategies for Community Leaders
Using digital media is an effective way to connect with like-minded individuals and groups within and outside of Cambodia. Blogs, forums, conference groups and social networking sites can be used as a platform for khloggers to share and receive ideas from people and groups outside of the country. It is also a good avenue to reach out to a larger audience - a reach that traditional media does not offer. Thus, this makes digital media an excellent and appropriate platform for community leaders to reach out to locals as well as foreigners who share the same ideals and vision as them.
In 2011, Jalalagood (a youth-run civic organization from Afghanistan) was invited to a blogger’s meetup at the Royal University of Phnom Penh. The participants discussed their experiences of blogging in their home countries as well as their opinions on freedom of expression on an online medium, culminating in a fruitful discourse of social media trends.
Another milestone event that took place in Cambodia was the hosting of the TEDxPhnomPenh conference. TEDxPP was an event to bring together prominent Internet personalities and to share their own unique ideas with the people of Cambodia. Speakers are given time on the floor to talk to fellow participants, TED talks on relevant topics are streamed and most importantly, participants are allowed to meet people who share the same interests as them and have the opportunity to discuss ideas together.
Peer-to-peer learning through Social Media.
The People Health Development Association (PHD) uses social media to build awareness among the youth in Phnom Penh to end violence against women. University students mutually educate each other in peer to peer learning through the use of Facebook, twitter, email, and the internet, which will indirectly reach out to over 1000 young people through discussion and information-sharing. The topics they will cover are all related to gender-based violence: rape, sexual harassment and sexual exploitation.
Forming Support Network through Social Media
Victims of violence against women formed a support network using the social media platform, providing emotional support for each other.
Bringing help to Cambodia through Social MediaPassports with Purpose is an initiative by a group of travel bloggers to use their collective network to do good. They raise awareness of social issues in Cambodia and raise funds for various causes in Cambodia.
They reached out to their online community via Twitter, Facebook, and recruit the participation of bloggers by sharing their experiences in Cambodia. Their community then shared the stories on to their respective communities, resulting in an organic growth of supporters for the movement. Passports with Purpose raised $13,000 last in 2011. The funds will be used to build a school in rural Cambodia.
Hear from the Cambodians
Sopheaktra – Cambodian Citizen & Current SMU Undergraduate
Sopheaktra grew up in Cambodia till 14 years of age and last visited Cambodia in December 2011. Sopheaktra is currently pursuing a degree in Business Management at Singapore Management University.
1. How would you describe Cambodia's digital/social media landscape now?
I would say it’s growing fast as in any other emerging countries. More people are more receptive towards new technologies and start to incorporate such technologies into their daily life. However, young people tend to be more open towards digital or social media, may be because of the young speaks foreign languages (such as English or Chinese) better as compared to their parents’ generations. Such foreign languages make it easier for them to enjoy such form of media.
2. How has Cambodia's digital/social media landscape improved over the last 5 years?
I must say it’s improved tremendously. The growth of digital/social media is exponential in emerging countries like Cambodia. It is mainly due to a greater accessibility to broadband Internet and mobile internet. It is more convenient now to go online and stay online. In the past, one must go to an Internet café and sit there for hours if he or she wants to stay online. Broadband is not readily available and if it was available, it was also super slow and very expensive for the mainstream. Now the telecommunication companies offer such connections at a much more affordable rate than the last five years, I’d say. The speed is faster, making it less painful to stream any videos or load any webpages.
3. What do you think are the major difficulties that youths in Cambodia face when trying to adopt digital/social media?
Well, I think many youths are interested in digital and social media. Many of my Cambodian friends who were not active on social sites such as Facebook before have become more active in the past few years and even more are signing up for an account! In addition, since Cambodian youths are becoming more tech-savvy, it is easier for them to adopt new social media or any existing ones. In terms of challenges, I think it's the affordability of many gadgets. Youths in the city tend to have it better than those in rural areas and faraway provinces. It is a simple fact that if one doesn't have a computer, smart phone or any devices that allow you to access any digital media or web pages, you can't even start to learn or familiarize yourself with such media in the first place. The lack of financial ability may limit some youths from rural places to enjoy such 'luxury'.
4. Other than Facebook and blogging, what other platforms of digital/social media do Cambodians engage one another in?
I think Cambodians do enjoy going to chatrooms to talk to new people and more Cambodians are also reading newspaper online. Popular printed newspaper such as Phnom Penh post and Koh Santepheap are digitalized too. Contents are available in both English and Khmer.
5. Are there many businesses making use of digital/social media in Cambodia? How do they run campaigns in the Cambodian context?
Despite the growth of such digital/social media in Cambodia, the number of businesses which are using it as their campaigns is still limited. The number is increasing though. I have a few friends who have started their own businesses and their promotions and campaigns are done in various popular social websites especially Facebook because that is where their friends are there. It actually depends on the business target audience. Many businesses still use traditional campaigning methods such as flyers, radios, TV commercials and road shows.
6. How significant is the problem of censorship on the new media platforms as opposed to that of traditional media?
I don’t think censorship law is very strict or effectively implemented in Cambodia as of now. I don’t really foresee any problems of censorship on this new media platform (but again, that is just my view on this matter).
7. In your opinion, what would be the outlook of the digital/social media landscape in Cambodia in the next few years?
Given the current progress, I expect the social media landscape to grow exponentially in Cambodia.
- According to Media Programme Asia
- Cambodia - Telecoms, Mobile, Internet and Forecast. A half yearly update and it includes new mobile subscriber data based on available statistics plus estimates to December 2011. From Budde Comm
- Cambodian Communication Review 2011, Department of Media & Communications. Cambodia Communication Institute. Royal University of Phnom Penh
- 2004 report prepared for the Trade and Investment division of the United Nation Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ST/ESCAP/2336)
- From Asia Economic Institute, TELECOMMUNICATIONS INDUSTRY IN CAMBODIA
- From CIA World Factbook, accurate as of Jan 9, 2012
- From Asia Economic Institute, TELECOMMUNICATIONS INDUSTRY IN CAMBODIA
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- " Meet Cambodia's social media elite - the Cloggers." Techradar. Retrieved March, 2012, from TELECOMMUNICATIONS INDUSTRY IN CAMBODIA.
- "Cambodian Bloggers Summit." Retrieved March, 2012.
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- According to Cambopedia
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- Social Bakers, Mar 2012
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- According to Cambodians By Ashley Carruthers and Sarithya Tuy, 2008
- KICTA (2010). New Turning Point in Cambodia's Traditional Media.
- KHMER-STAR (n.d.) Top Five Cambodian News Websites
- Go to 3rd World Ecotourism Conference to read more about the issue
- CAMBODIA CENTRE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS (n.d.). World Press Freedom Day - 21st century media: New frontiers and old barriers for freedom of expression in Cambodia
- Doherty, B. Silence of the dissenters: How southeast Asia keeps web users in line.
- Dyer, E. (2010). Gov’t axes Internet monopoly plan. Retrieved from The Phnom Penh Post.
- Miller, T (2011). Tangled web revealed. Retrieved from The Phnom Penh Post.
- CAMBODIA CENTRE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS (2011). CCHR condemns government attempt to thwart online activism.
- Human Rights Watch (2010). Cambodia: New Penal Code Undercuts Free Speech
- Read more at http://www.apc.org/en/node/11397
Relevant keywords of the page:
- Cambodia social media research
- Cambodia blog report