Dispute Between Telecoms, Gov’t Heads to International Arbitration

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A man checks the news on his smartphone. (Heng Vichet/VOD)

A dispute with two Chinese-owned telecommunications companies — delicensed by the government last year — is headed to an international arbitration body, government documents show.

A sub-decree signed on September 15, released publicly last week, details the creation of an inter-ministerial committee to solve the dispute between the government and the two firms, EMaxx Telecom and Kingtel Communication.

Commerce Ministry records show both companies are run by the same three directors, all from Guangdong, China. Their licenses were revoked last year as part of an operation by the Telecommunications Ministry that targeted 17 telecommunications companies.

A ministry press release from October last year says the licenses for Emaxx’s mobile phone operations and Kingtel’s VoIP telecommunications were to be eliminated. It does not specify the infractions of the two companies, but says the 17 total companies were inactive, had no employees, were noncompliant about revenue or did not provide technical documents.

The recent sub-decree, signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen, says the newly created committee would be tasked with studying, researching and compiling legal, technical, financial and other documents linked to a dispute with the two companies.

It will also examine the qualifications and select an international law firm to represent the government in arbitration proceedings at the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes.

The center, under the umbrella of the World Bank group, intervenes in investor-state dispute settlements.

It has previously dealt with one Cambodian case, between the government and a failed power plant project that was seeking $300 million in claims, a search on the center’s database shows.

The committee to oversee the Emaxx and Kingtel cases will consist of 16 members, with the telecommunications minister as chair and representatives from the ministries of finance, justice and foreign affairs, the sub-decree says, but does not elaborate on the details of the dispute.

Both Emaxx and Kingtel’s websites and emails have been disconnected, and the companies could not be reached for comment. The International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes has not immediately replied to questions.

Telecommunications Minister Chea Vandeth declined to comment, saying, “This case is locked up in the court.”


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