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(Mostly) Quiet on the Cambodian Blogosphere

Reactions to the July 27th election were largely reserved within Cambodia’s blogosphere this week, as the governing Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) clinched a large majority of votes. E.U. monitors have criticized the handling of the election, claiming that the CCP and the National Election Committee dominated media coverage, disenfranchised groups of voters, and mis-used state resources in the campaign effort. Only a small portion of Cambodian bloggers (self-referenced as “Cloggers”) have responded to the E.U. criticism or the campaign in general, and many have refrained from staunchly opinionated postings.

Blogger Vutha has frequently shared his observations of the campaign and other current issues within and around Cambodia. But his posts have remained, for the most part, politically neutral, and his blog appears to serve more as an information mechanism rather than an editorial forum. Blogger Drummond has kept up on the election, reporting poll results and reactions from local and international news media. His posts have also been largely informative and somewhat reserved, although he has expressed disappointment in the opposition party.

But sifting through the Cambodian blogosphere I found very little political content. Recently, APF News had an interesting piece about the burgeoning blogosphere in Cambodia. The article detailed how bloggers in the country have been opening up a traditionally conservative society, but it also explained how most bloggers opt not to incorporate political issues in their online diaries. One Khmer-language blogger, Be Chantra, even houses a “No Politics” banner on his site.

Fears of government repression may be steering the public discourse away from political issues. Gary Kawaguchi, a digital media trainer at the Department of Media and Communications of Cambodia explains:

The good thing about a blog is that it can be anonymous… But the press here is very controlled and people still find out who you are, so bloggers still have to be careful.

With approximately 1,000 bloggers, the Cambodian blogosphere is largely in a developmental stage. Bloggers are still learning the tricks of the trade and exploring new software applications, with the help of university-sponsored technology workshops. Such workshops indicate that the Cambodian blogosphere has much potential to grow. As it continues to mature and a new generation of bloggers develops, it will be quite interesting to follow. But the question remains if political content on the Cambodian blogosphere will be more ubiquitous in the future or if it will continue to be scarce.

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