Saturday, 5 March 2011

Gathering to Celebrate Internet Access in Cambodia

Written by Sopheap Chak

via CAAI

Posted 3 March 2011

Let's White Out Phnom Penh's Independence Monument for a few hours! We believe that social media is an important tool in present day and age, and such tool is accessible in Cambodia.

This is the message for the White-Out Day which will take place this Friday, March 4, at the Independent Monument which represents the liberation movement from French Colonization in 1950s. The invitation was announced on Facebook by Nate Sovatha.

From the invitation page, it reads:

Social Media has become increasingly important in present day and age. Its benefits in connecting people across and beyond boundaries are indisputable. It has also played a pivotal role that translates into social changes in recent days in some countries across the world. Despite such values, this tool is not available to everybody; some countries have blocked access to this vital tool. As a genuine member of the 21st century global community, CAMBODIA IS NOT ONE OF THOSE COUNTRIES AND WE WANT TO CELEBRATE THAT FACT. This is what this event is all about.

The whole idea of the gathering is simply to celebrate the fact that internet access in Cambodia is better compared to other countries with strict media censorship laws:

Let's meet up with your friends and other social media users, talk stories or simply just take some pictures with the monument in the background. To show our unity and membership in the social media users community, let's all wear WHITE COLOR (top and bottom if can, if no can, just white top. Just plain white, no print, no sign or anything).

Insisting that this event is not a demonstration, and avoiding mention of current uprising in several Arab states, the organizer of the event warned participants not to use the activity for political purposes. More importantly, realizing the potential reaction from the government and understanding that the laws in Cambodia require permit for such gathering at a specified location namely Freedom Park, the organizer emphasized the non-political character of the gathering:

Disclaimer: This event is not a protest or a demonstration. Laws in Cambodia require permit for such event and it would need to be held at a specified location. I DO NOT HAVE SUCH PERMIT. This is not a political event, so please don’t hijack this event for political purposes.

As of this writing, there are 31 Facebook users who have confirmed their attendance. However, the event will definitely attract more internet users who are likely to attend the gathering without confirming participation on Facebook.

Even if it is non-political, such event organized through social media networks, may spark reaction from the government which recently denied that it ordered the blocking of certain websites that are leaning towards the opposition or viewed as critical to the government; and also government leaders have publicly condemned commentators who are comparing Cambodia to the situation in Egypt and Tunisia.

The count down begins to the White Out Phnom Penh's Independence Monument. Will the participants of this non-political event get arrested?

Written by Sopheap Chak

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