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Cambodia: Ban on Urban Drones By Carlyle A. Thayer

C3S Paper No. 0041/ 2015

We request your assessment of Phnom Penh City Hall’s directive issued today banning the use of drones in the city without prior approval. The stated reasons for the ban are that they invade people’s privacy and are a potential threat to public/national safety as they could be exploited by criminals and/or terrorists.

Q1. Do you think there is a legitimate need to regulate the use of drones in urban environments? Commercial sale and purchase of drone equipment in Phnom Penh is not affected by this ban/restriction—is it likely to be an effective deterrent for terrorists/criminals who can freely buy drones? ANSWER: Yes, there is a compelling public safety interest in having government regulate the use of drones in built up urban environments. Regulations to control drones, however, are unlikely to deter terrorists and criminals from using them if it suits their purposes.

Q2. How likely is it that the ban is a pre-emptive measure taken by City Hall to stem their use by media outlets, for example in advance of potential civil unrest in the lead up to the next election? ANSWER: In addition to public safety issues, it is also likely that government officials prefer to control emerging technologies to their advantage and to deny the use of these technologies to their opponents. If drones were to be used by the media to report on civil unrest, Cambodian government officials definitely would want to restrict their usage.

(Article reprinted with the permission of the author Carlyle A. Thayer, Emeritus Professor,The University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy, Canberra email:

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