"Internet cafés are springing up like mushrooms in rainy season in the heart of Cambodia, Phnom Penh in recent years." – Tharum
Also, a perfect metaphor for the Cambodian blogopshere!
The Cambodian blogosphere is growing, but also getting more organized and connected. Last month, bloggers in Phnom Penh met in a local bar for their first ever bloggers evening. (Maybe next month, they will gather at the NGO TECH restaurant?) Jinja, one of the organizers, has added dozens of blogs to the Cambodia page in the Global Voices Wiki, making it easier for "cloggers" (Cambodian Bloggers) to find and converse with one another.
Tharum, a self-described “It Catcher,” started his blog in June 2004 while a student at the National University of Management and working for the Open Forum for Cambodia, the organization which first brought email to Cambodia in the 1990s and now working on Khmer-language portals and will soon launch khmer language blogs. Tharum's blog was recently featured on the front page of the Cambodia
Daily with the headline "Nation's ‘Bloggers’ Hope To Facilitate Dialogue."
While difficult to prove, Tharum is probably the first Cambodian in Cambodia to publish a blog using blog software. (The first Cambodian blogger, of course, is Cambodia's former monarch, King Sihanouk, whose web site has published bloggish like posts for at least three years according to a recent AP article)
The Ex-King's "blog" has inspired more Cambodian Blogs.
As part of a project launched by a pro-democracy nonprofit, IRI, Lux Mean conducted training workshops in Cambodia's provinces for approximately 60 high-school and university students on how to publish an English-language blog. Held in regional Community Information Centers, the workshops have spawned dozens of new blogs written by Khmer people outside of Phnom Penh. According to a recent article in Wired, Lux Mean said that the most common question from the those being trained was whether people in other countries could read their blogs. The IRI is exicted by the potential for these Cambodian blogs (and others) to generate more political dialogue.
But even outside of these larger training initiatives, little by little and sometimes with the help of others, younger Khmers are publishing blogs. Take for example, Yourath, who lives in Siem Reap. She was taught how to blog by Elizabeth Briel, an American artist and expat in Siem Reap working on a project, Cameras for Cambodia.
Time will tell if Cambodian blogs will facilitate more dialogue. As Tharum notes, "Blogs are easy to start and stop."
Will blogs in the khmer language help sustain the dialogue and encourage more voices? (or as Virak says, "Technology can help Cambodian people loud their voice to the world.") The Open Forum of Cambodia’s Open Software Initiative hopes so with the launch of their Khmer-language bloggings software. It will be interesting to watch how the government reacts to bloggers opinions and whether or not they will get shut down.
Maybe Global Voices will need a khmer-language bridge blogger soon!