Also on this site
For a list of Internet access points in Phnom Penh, see my Cambodia travel page.
On my Camera Obscura, there are links to lists of Internet access points in Southeast Asia and the world.
Cambodia's two Internet service providers, CamNet and Cogetel Online (formerly Telstra BigPond), have information on service availability in Cambodia.
Here is the most comprehensive site on your communications choices in Cambodia that you will ever find. Compares all forms of all internet providers, telephones etc, by price, plan, quality. A startling achievement.
Here I am quoted in E-mail is a real revolution (Salon magazine, March 15, 1999), by Kyra Dupont and Eric Pape.
For photos of CamNet's early days, see the CamNet section of Garry Ray's site. Garry was a technical consultant there.
Connecting to Cambodia, by Jim Nash (Wired, September 1997)
So Khun Delivers Warning at Internet Launch by Debra Boyce and Khuy Sokhoeun (The Cambodia Daily, Wednesday, May 28, 1997).
High-tech in the hinterlands
Cambodia and the Internet
Since May of 1997, Cambodia has been on-line on the Internet. Gone are the days when messages had to be stored on a server in Phnom Penh and then forwarded over expensive long-distance telephone lines. Messages used to cost $0.15 per kilobyte, which is about 150 characters of text. Now there is an hourly charge for dial-up PPP, so unless the files are truly enormous (software downloads, for example), the cost to receive them in Cambodia is negligible.
Before the ISPs, subscribers to the commercial store-and-forward systems were responsible for the costs of both incoming and outgoing messages. The results weren't pretty. One friend sent me 400k of graphics, which cost me $160. She is still plagued by guilt. Another sent me a photo of his cute new baby son, which would have cost me $350 except for a serendipitous technical problem at the server which screwed it up and saved me.
New e-mail addresses in Cambodia
If you are looking for people who used to have @cm17.com addresses, use @worldmail.com.kh instead.
Former @pactok.peg.apc.org addresses are gone, since CCCnet folded at the end of 1997. Users have changed over to other systems.
Open Forum addresses (@forum.org.kh) still work.
Archives: The Internet Comes to Cambodia
Here are some of my articles about Cambodia's lengthy efforts to get on line. Most of them were first published in The Cambodia Daily.
Internet Provider Now On-Line - May 7, 1997
Letter: Internet Points Valid, Off Mark - April 2, 1997
Cambodia Poised to Link Up to Internet - April 1997
Japanese Initiative May Wire Phnom Penh for Free Internet - June 10, 1996
Sidebar: Change of Plan for Commercial Internet
Internet May Soon Come to Cambodia, But at What Price? - March 18, 1996
Cambodia Seeking Home on the Internet - March 4, 1996
Internet Link May Finally Connect Cambodia to the World - February 12, 1996
For other articles I've written about Cambodia, rifle through my articles file.
For other topics on Cambodia, go to my Cambodia room.
Internet Link May Finally Connect Cambodia to the World
By Rich Garella, The Cambodia Daily, February 12, 1996
Cambodia's long wait for a public connection to the Internet--the
global computer network--may be coming to an end. Although there are limited
electronic mail forwarding services here already, there is no direct Internet
service. One year ago when Sprint, the US telecommunications giant, offered
to set up the US side of a satellite link to Cambodia, it looked as if a
connection would be up and running by July 1995.
But Koy Kim Sea, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications
(MPTC), says that the offer did not cover the expense of the Cambodia side
of the link, and that the ministry also felt that to maintain the system,
it would need the expertise that an outside company could bring.
Now the government has received four "expressions of interest"
from potential licensed providers, and narrowed the field to two, said Koy
Kim Sea on Friday. He expects that one of the two will be approved as the exclusive
provider of Internet access here and that the system could be in operation
as early as April.
The MPTC had sent invitations in mid-December, with a deadline of Jan 31,
to three US firms, AT&T, MCI and Sprint, and Australia's Telstra, he
said. Until the companies are notified of the final outcome, probably in
two to three weeks, he would not say which two companies are on the short
The one-page MPTC invitation specified that "the form of the business
will be subject to negotiation" and it does not specify how long any
agreement would last. However, it says that staff should be recruited from
within MPTC and that all universities in Cambodia should be served for free.
Non-governmental organizations are not mentione d. "They would be in
the group paying for the service, along with businesses," Koy Kim Sea
To connect the provider's computer to existing Internet computers outside
of Cambodia, the MPTC, he said, is prepared to lease one of its 64K international
circuits to the provider at approximately the same rate it charges other
customers: $6,200 per month. A 64K circuit is a large international link
that can serve many users at the same time.
Dr Peter Booth, a UN Development Program adviser to the MPTC recently explained
why a provider must be licensed. Even if a provider could set up its own
64K connection to the outside, for example by satellite, only the MPTC is
legally allowed to operate and bill for telecommunications services.
While neighboring Thailand has become one of the best-connected nations
in Southeast Asia only five years after first getting connected, the only
connections Cambodia has now are limited systems, such as Unilink and the
non-profit Pactok, which do not offer live, two-way communications.
One of the biggest obstacles has been that there are few personal computers
in Cambodia; the figure may be as low as 500 to 1,000, say some experts.
That means the market is small and a commercial service could not expect
large profits, at least not at first. In addition, the telephone system
The Internet is the worldwide network of computers. Internet host computers,
or servers, are usually owned by universities, governments or large companies.
The servers are connected to each other 24 hours a day through high-capacity
phone lines. Individuals who have an account on a server can have their
own computer call the server, establish a connection, and then communicate
with any other Internet computer in the world. That means users can send
electronic messages, or e-mail, anywhere almost instantly, find all kinds
of information on other computers, and engage in organized discussions on
almost any topic at any time.
For businesses, the Internet offers inexpensive and very fast communication,
as well as a way to advertise and even sell products and services. For students
the Internet offers a vast array of information limited only by one's skill
and perseverance in searching. And for governments the Internet offers a
way to reach out to the world to promote tourism and trade. At the same
time, the difficulty of monitoring communication on the Internet has raised
concerns about national security in some countries, and about morality in
back to list
Cambodia Seeking Home on the Internet
By Rich Garella, The Cambodia Daily, March 4, 1996
South Korean Professor Chon Kilnam visited Cambodia late last
week in an effort to facilitate Cambodian participation in an Internet "exposition."
The "Internet 1996 World Exposition" is an effort by many countries
and corporations to organize displays, or sites, on the Internet. Sites
can be created by individuals, organizations and countries so people with
Internet-connected computers can tour them throughout this year.
During his visit to Cambodia, which is not connected to the Internet, Chon
met with officials including Foreign Minister Ung Huot and Undersecretary
of State for Posts and Telecommunications Koy Kim Sea. At a Thursday meeting
with government officials and others, Chon discussed possible technical
assistance from Japan and Taiwan.
According to Koy Kim Sea, negotiations are underway for a privately operated
Internet link here.
back to list
Internet May Soon Come to Cambodia, But at What Price?
By Rich Garella, The Cambodia Daily, March 18, 1996
The government is close to signing a deal to connect Cambodia
to the Internet worldwide computer network, but several experts are concerned
that the long-term, exclusive commercial contract could be the right move
in the wrong direction.
Undersecretary of State for Posts and Telecommunications Koy Kim Sea said
Friday that representatives of Sprint, a US telecommunications company,
are coming to Cambodia for what will probably be the final stage of negotiations,
and that Minister of Posts and Telecommunications So Khun is already authorized
by the Council of Ministers to ink the deal. If the talks fall through,
however, the ministry could continue to negotiate with Sprint or turn to
Although details of the deal are unavailable--and to a large extent undecided--Koy
Kim Sea said some features of the contract are already set. The provider
will have the exclusive right to charge customers for Internet access. Tariffs
would be set by agreement between the provider and the ministry, which would
get a cut of that approved rate.
The provider will also be required to lease their international lines from
MPTC, for the standard rate of approximately $6,200 for a 64k line--a rate
that provides "some benefit" to the government, said Koy Kim Sea.
A line that size can connect dozens of subscribers to the outside world,
though not all at the same time.
An Internet connection would move Cambodia out of the ranks of the least
developed countries in terms of computer networking. "There is certainly
potential," says Chris Maloy, the country manager of Telstra, which
also submitted a proposal. "This is a vehicle to access resources that
Cambodia can't access now."
But observers point to three potential problems: the exclusivity of the
deal, the lack of assurance of non-commercial access and the length of the
Norbert Klein operates a store-and-forward electronic mail system--the oldest
in the country--through the non-profit organization Open Forum for Cambodia.
"For the benefit of the country they should not make it a monopoly,"
Klein says. "Competition is the basis for the free market Cambodia
is trying to develop."
Prof Chon Kilnam, former chair of the Asia-Pacific Networking Group, visited
Cambodia last month and met with officials working to bring the Internet
here. He says that since the Internet is an infrastructure project, it is
better to have both commercial and non-commercial services, and that he
is not aware of any country that has given an exclusive contract to one
But it's not just a question of how many providers there are, but who can
get the service. In most countries where the Internet has taken hold, access
was made easy for academics and non-profit organizations.
Here, the contract under negotiation would give free service only to universities.
But Koy Kim Sea said that it was not yet determined how the free service
would be measured or regulated. "We have to make it fair for them,"
he said, "so they can make a profit."
Henricus Cox, executive director of Sprint International, was quoted in
the Los Angeles Times last month saying, "Soon, students at Phnom Penh
University can have access to the same data US universities routinely use."
But universities here may have difficulty making use of the offer.
"To give free service to somebody who is hardly in a position to use
it does not mean much," Klein said, pointing to the lack of telephone
connections and even knowledge of the Internet at the University of Phnom
Penh. "It's not just universities, it's health services and researchers,
environmental agencies, other academics. It's in the interest of the whole
nation [to make the technology widely available]."
According to Koy Kim Sea, the contract will not prevent anyone else from
setting up an Internet connection--as long as they do not charge for the
use of it. For example, an aid agency could set up a computer and give free
accounts to other agencies. However, the cost of doing so would approach
Also yet to be decided is the length of the contract, which may run as long
as ten years. Klein says it would be very difficult to predict the growth
of the Internet even for the next five years. "If they do it this way,"
he said, "one company could dictate the direction of development for
the next 30 years."
Sprint's representatives are expected to arrive this week.
back to list
Japanese Initiative May Wire Phnom Penh for Free Internet
By Rich Garella, The Cambodia Daily, June 10, 1996
In a former restaurant just north of Psar Tmei, the clicking
of chopsticks could be replaced by the clicking of keyboards if Bill Herod
sees his efforts succeed.
The former restaurant is now home to Lidee Khmer, an "association of
Khmer professionals with advanced training from abroad." Representatives
of a Japanese project called Asian Internet Interconnection Initiatives
(AI3) arrive today to evaluate that site and others around town to decide
whether to offer Cambodia a free satellite hook-up to the Internet.
If AI3 gives Cambodia the nod, in a few months local residents will be able
to hop out of a cyclo, step into a computer room and explore a vast world
of information stored on computers all over the planet: the Internet's World
Wide Web. (The Internet is the network of computers all over the world hooked
together 24 hours a day.)
Because any computer on the Internet can communicate with any other one
at any time, the Web would allow a person using a computer here to read
information set up on the other computers--thousands of times more information
than is available in all of Cambodia's libraries put together.
"Indicators are positive," said Herod last week. "We have
an understanding that things should go quickly." Herod, who works for
the International Development Research Center of Canada, says Lidee Khmer
rented the former restaurant as their headquarters partly to impress upon
the AI3 delegation Cambodia's commitment to the project.
Other sites where Internet-linked computers are planned include the Council
for Development of Cambodia, the Ministry of Tourism, and the University
of Phnom Penh.
If they are sufficiently impressed, the Japanese group will make a proposal
to fund parts of the system, including communications through a satellite
and a dish to communicate with the satellite. Telephone wires from the dish
to the computer sites--and the actual computers--would have to be supplied
locally. DEAM Computing, a local business, has already donated five computers
to Lidee Khmer.
Once the computers are connected, people could go to the public access sites
and click their way around the world doing scientific, medical, or business
research, for example, communicating with people with similar interests,
or just exploring.
It's likely that the first site visitors will see on their screen will be
the Internet 1996 World Exposition, a group of sites set up by nations and
organizations in an international effort to use the World Wide Web to introduce
people to the Internet.
Sidebar: Change of Plan for Commercial Internet
AI3 "is not an end run" around efforts to bring commercial
Internet service to Cambodia, says Bill Herod. In fact, Koy Kim Sea, the
undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications
(MPTC), who is coordinating the government's plans for profit-making Internet
service, is also the chair of the ad hoc Internet committee that approved
the AI3 public access initiative.
Koy Kim Sea said last Friday that earlier plans to give US telecom giant
Sprint an exclusive multi-year contract have been dropped in favor of a
plan to allow competition between providers. Several Internet experts and
local agencies had criticized the plan for an exclusive contract, saying
that doing so would keep prices high, restrict access to students, agencies
and other non-commercial users and hamper the adoption of the new technology
The MPTC may sign a deal with Sprint as early as next week, Koy Kim Sea
said, and another provider--probably Australia's Telstra--may also sign
a contract. Koy Kim Sea said that commercial providers could be operating
by August or September, charging 50,000 riel per month for eight hours of
back to list
Cambodia Poised to Link Up to Internet
By Rich Garella, for Deutsche Presse Agentur (pre-edit) April 1997
PHNOM PENH - When the Khmer Rouge marched into Phnom Penh in
1975, Cambodia's communications networks had already been nearly destroyed
by years of civil war and intense aerial bombing.
As the first tendrils of the Internet started to spread in the United States
and Europe, the Khmer Rouge regime maintained only a few telegraph lines
connecting Cambodia's provincial towns to the capital. A single radio link
to China was for a time the only connection to the outside world.
Two decades later, Cambodia is still a communications basket case, with
only 10,000 hard-wired telephones for its 10 million people--one of the
lowest rates in the world.
But now an unusual partnership between the government and a Canadian development
organization is poised to bring Cambodia up to date with a direct connection
to the Internet at last.
Behind Phnom Penh's quaint colonial-era post office stands a grimy, run-down
office building, where bundles of black cables covered with cobwebs hang
in dimly lit corridors over cracked tile floors. It's the headquarters of
the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications.
On the second floor, in a renovated office, is the nerve center of CamNet,
the product of Cambodia's unusual partnership. The computers and other equipment
here have been paid for by the International Development Research Center
of Canada (IDRC).
The brightly lit office is the first tangible result of a lengthy and sometimes
bitter campaign to bring Internet servers to Cambodia.
Despite its unusual history, the first hurdle Cambodia faced was one that
is common in the developing world: a near-total lack of awareness of what
the Internet is.
In the West, universities and other institutions offering e-mail and other
Internet services have been feeding Internet-savvy people into the general
population for years.
In Cambodia, the national university's computer science department didn't
even have a telephone line until mid-1996. Advocates, including Cambodians
returning from overseas, had their work cut out for them selling officials
on the possibilities the Internet might hold for tourism, commerce, education,
health and more.
But after visiting conferences abroad and seeing local demonstrations of
the Internet (through expensive international telephone calls), many officials
are convinced. Several government ministries, including tourism and commerce,
are looking into creating World Wide Web pages.
The other major sticking point has been the question of profits. Early government
proposals to give an exclusive contract to a single commercial provider
fueled suspicions that such a deal might end up serving only a few high-paying
customers while padding the pockets of government officials.
Non-governmental organizations and foreign experts alike pointed out that
access must be cheap and widely available in order to serve Cambodia's technology-starved students and under-funded local organizations, while increasing awareness
of the Internet as rapidly as possible.
The CamNet project seems to have found a way to meet those needs while keeping
costs for the cash-strapped government low.
After the digital line to Singapore is open, CamNet will provide free or
subsidized access for educational purposes, said Bill Herod of the IDRC.
But for his organization, part of the appeal of the project is that it will
sell commercial accounts to the public as well. That commercial income,
said Herod, is the key to making this a project that can sustain itself.
CamNet expects to hold its public unveiling in early May with World Wide
Web access at a public site, and gradually offer more services, starting
with e-mail. Meanwhile, the Australian telecoms company, Telstra is also
starting an Internet link, which may be operating as early as June.
As he waits for the signal from Singapore to initiate the new era in Cambodian
telecommunications, Moa Chakrya, the manager of Internet services for the
ministry, keeps busy installing software and periodically testing the system
by dialing in from his laptop in another room. Though he has never had an
own Internet account of his own, Chakrya is excited about the prospect of
managing Cambodia's first link-up.
"Cambodia is agricultural and small, but any country which is democratic
needs information about changes in the world," said Chakrya. "It's
our chance to make up for lost time, to get technical information our people
back to list
Letter: Internet Points Valid, Off Mark
Rich Garella in The Cambodia Daily, April 2, 1997
Sum Mean raised several legitimate points in his letter Tuesday
which took issue with my article, "Cambodia Finally on Brink of Link
to Internet" (March 28).
I am concerned, however, that readers who are unfamiliar with this new technology
may have been misled, and might be discouraged from investigating it.
Cambodia does not yet have an Internet link. The services to which Sum Mean
refers are "store-and-forward" systems. They transmit chunks of
information such as e-mail from the actual Internet, over international
telephone lines, to Cambodia.
For example, the "kh" address to which Sum Mean refers is at this
point not a live Internet server. Rather it uses standard long distance
telephone calls to transmit information to an Internet-linked computer in
California. Open Forum must of course pay for that call.
Although such services are performing a valuable function-and may continue
to do so-they are about as different from a real link as a book-of-the-month
club is from the Library of Congress. This is not to diminish in any way
the significant work of the dedicated people who have created them and made
the most of a limited opportunity.
The Internet, on the other hand, allows users to communicate freely with
the world through a "live" two-way connection. Not only does this
allow access to the World Wide Web, file transfer, Usenet news groups, live
chat sessions and more, but e-mail becomes nearly instant (and free to subscribers),
and users can search out information for themselves. The overwhelming majority
of people in Cambodia may have difficulty appreciating the difference, because
they have never seen the real thing. Of course, technical problems are to
be expected, and, as Sum Mean points out, pricing and access are fundamental
CamNet plans to offer Web access at a single point only initially, and will
likely make Web access and other services available to subscribers through
their own telephone lines as the facilities are tested. The article was
edited so as to give the incorrect impression--unfortunately repeated by
Sum Mean--that CamNet will offer Web access "only at a single point."
back to list
Internet Provider Now On-Line
By Rich Garella, The Cambodia Daily, May 7, 1997
At 9:34 am on Tuesday a computer at the Ministry of Posts and
Telecommunications became the first in Cambodia to have a full-time Internet
connection by bouncing an electronic message off a counterpart in California.
The computer is operated by CamNet,
a partnership between the ministry and the International Development Research
Center , a Canadian aid organization. CamNet plans to sell Internet accounts,
including e-mail, to the public while providing access to educational and
other public-interest institutions.
CamNet's competition in the new market for full Internet services is Big Pond, a service operated by Telstra, the Australian telecommunications company. Telstra operates an Internet service in Australia under the same name, but Cambodia is Big Pond's first venture overseas.
A Telstra official said that Big Pond's server should go on-line Wednesday,
connecting to a server in Australia. The target date for Big Pond to begin
selling individual accounts is June 1.
Although CamNet staff were able to view pages on the Internet's World Wide
Web within 20 minutes of the initial connection, further Internet services
such as receiving e-mail and exploring the thousands of discussion groups
known as Usenet will take longer to set up.
Moa Chakrya, MPTC's Internet manager, said that CamNet may be ready to sell
accounts to the public as early as three weeks from now. Even before that,
he added, a public-access center for viewing-or "surfing"-the
World Wide Web should be open at the office of Lidee Khmer, on Street 53.
According to Telstra officials, Big Pond operates under a license that says
that only it and CamNet are permitted to offer Internet services in Cambodia
for five years.
Although the two services will compete directly for customers, they will
have to cooperate in other areas. Telstra is under contract with the government
to develop and operate international long-distance telephone services-including
the full-time leased line used by CamNet.
Neither service has yet announced rates.
back to list
Connecting to Cambodia, by Jim Nash (Wired, September 1997)
Operation Phnom.com: Cambodia is the ultimate test of digital technology's power to transform by Jacques Leslie (Wired, November 1999)
Cambodian Connections on Pan-Asia Networking site