Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

New Interactive Database Expands Access to Public Information

A man views the Kamnotra website on his computer in a Phnom Penh coffee shop on June 21, 2023. (CamboJA/Pring Samrang)
A man views the Kamnotra website on his computer in a Phnom Penh coffee shop on June 21, 2023. (CamboJA/Pring Samrang)

A new online platform, Kamnotra, launched on Tuesday by the Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM), aiming to consolidate access to public data in English and Khmer. 

“Our goal at CCIM is to provide the Cambodian people with the information they need to make informed decisions,” CCIM stated in a June 20 press release.

Kamnotra kicked off with two main databases. 

Gazetteer” indexes documents released in the Royal Gazette, such as government-awarded land grants and honorific titles. 

In Dispute” gathers information on land conflicts across the country and displays the locations on an interactive map. 

The site also features detailed maps, data and graphics on Cambodia’s elections, including a detailed analysis of all parties and candidates competing in the July 23 national elections.

Kamnotra’s name translates to “The Record.” The databases, which initially included information from 2019 to 2023, will continuously update, according to the website.

“Few sources of independent information are left in Cambodia,” the Kamnotra site states. “Yet the forced closure of news organizations, pressure on civic spaces and the proliferation of propaganda have made the hunger for reliable data and accurate information greater than ever.”

In February, the government revoked the media license for CCIM’s news outlet Voice of Democracy (VOD) on the orders of Prime Minister Hun Sen. Three Khmer-language online outlets were also shut down in March.

The government has also long-delayed passing the Law on Access to Information, which would improve the public’s ability to obtain government records. Cambodia’s press law says the press has access to information but includes significant exceptions to public records requests.

Information Ministry spokesperson Meas Sophorn said he could not yet assess how useful Kamnotra would be in providing information to society. 

“Because the agency that launched this website did not provide any information related to this website to the Ministry of Information, so I can not assess how,” Sophorn said.

Sophorn said that CCIM had the right to create a website but may need to register with the Information Ministry if the website hosts news information and audiovisuals. 

“If the site is involved in information and audio-visual work, it needs to be registered with the ministry,” Sophorn said. “If the site is not registered, it is illegal.”

CCIM’s media director Ith Sothoeuth told CamboJA that CCIM hopes to maintain Komnatra as a permanent platform. He said the site was not a replacement news organization for VOD but a distinct database compiling already existing information to help the general public.

“Kamnotra is a website that contains public data, we compile and publish as data and make it easier for people to understand and know all data that already exists,” Sotheouth said.

He said CCIM wants to launch it as a permanent platform and seeks to expand the data included on the site.

“As for the possibility of shutting down, CCIM is also concerned because some civil society organizations are now facing threats, but we hope the government will see the benefits of Kamnotra,” Sothoeuth said. “In addition, it was established following the principles and conditions of the license of the Ministry of Interior.”