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Mobile phone text messaging blocked during elections

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Anthony Galloway's picture
Joined: 17-Dec-08
Posts: 2317

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Mobile phone text messaging will be blocked during this weekend's local elections in Cambodia, where the government is imposing a two day "tranquility period" to keep voters from being inundated with SMS campaign messages.

But the country's main opposition party said the move would curb constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.

All three major phone companies in Cambodia have agreed to block text messages on Saturday and Sunday, Telecommunications Minister So Khun said Friday.

Campaigning was to end Friday for elections to choose councils to administer Cambodia's 1,621 communes and urban sub-districts known as sangkats. Voting will take place Sunday, and text messaging will be restored after polls close at 3 p.m. local time (0800 GMT).

Officials imposed the ban based on a request from the National Election Committee, So Khun said. He referred to the ban as part of a necessary "tranquility period."

The election committee chairman, Im Suosdey, said the committee was concerned that political parties could "use SMS services to send messages to 20 or 30 people at a time to galvanize them to vote for their parties."

Being inundated with text messages could "spoil" the calm during the run-up to voting and on election day itself, he said.

The Sam Rainsy Party, the sole opposition party with parliamentary seats, objected to the ban.

Mu Sochua, the party's secretary-general, said in a statement Friday that the ban "severely" curbs people's freedom to communicate as guaranteed by the Constitution.

She called on the National Election Committee's chairman and the telecommunication minister to reverse their decisions.

Twelve political parties are fielding a total of 102,266 candidates in the elections, which are held every five years.

The first local election was held in February 2002. Until then, the communes were ruled by chiefs appointed by the Interior Ministry.

Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party, which has maintained a firm grip on power during the last three decades, won overwhelmingly in the last local election and is virtually certain to emerge victorious again.

Source: Itnernational Herald Tribune


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