Opposition leader Sam Rainsy has been hit with yet another defamation case for publishing instructions, purportedly from a CPP official, asking ruling party members to create Facebook accounts to bolster Prime Minister Hun Sen’s fan base on the site.
On Wednesday, the Cambodia National Rescue Party president uploaded to his Facebook page a message purportedly from Hak Sok Makara, under-secretary of state at the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, which relays instructions from Sam Soeun, a Cambodian People’s Party cabinet member, for the party’s rank-and-file.
Members are told to promote the premier’s Facebook page at “all meetings”, ensure all members “like” his page and “unlike” Rainsy’s page, and to organise “technical working groups” to create accounts to “like” Hun Sen.
“These instructions clearly show that the ruling CPP is pushing – on a large scale – its officials, supporters and networks – including civil servants, policemen and soldiers – to create fake Facebook accounts in order to provide artificial ‘likes’ to Hun Sen’s Facebook page,” Rainsy’s post alleges.
The post prompted Soeun, 64, to yesterday lodge a defamation complaint with the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, which demands $5,000 compensation for damaging his reputation and that of Hun Sen.
“On March 9 on the Sam Rainsy Facebook page, there was a post whose meaning was intended to defame me, saying I gave instructions to all subordinates, supporters, and networks including civil servant, polices and soldiers to create fake accounts in order to like the prime minister’s page,” the complaint, obtained by the Post, reads.
“The post also included a description, saying most of the ‘likes’ on Samdech’s page are from buying ‘likes’ from poor people who are jobless… bought or hired to create fake Facebook account to give fake ‘likes’ to the prime minister’s page.
“The post seriously affects the reputation of the national leader and myself.”
Rainsy uploaded the message as part of a post highlighting a Wednesday story in the Post, which revealed that 80 per cent of the premier’s recent Facebook “likes” originated abroad, including more than 255,000 from India.
Likes can be bought from firms that use click farms, where low-paid workers in developing countries create accounts. Rainsy alleged this was the case with Hun Sen’s recent influx of international fans.
Soeun was unreachable yesterday, and CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said he had not heard of the lawsuit, but noted Soeun’s right to protect his reputation.
He denied the party had ordered members to like Hun Sen’s page and again rejected the assertion the premier had paid for likes from abroad.
“As we know, there are millions of CCP members; they came voluntarily to like without being instructed,” he said.
Rainsy is in self-imposed exile to avoid prison for an eight-year-old defamation case brought by Foreign Minister Hor Namhong. National Assembly President Heng Samrin has also initiated a separate defamation suit.
Via email yesterday, the CNRP president welcomed the publicity.
“I would like to thank them [the CPP] for the advertisement they are making for my denouncing of their illegitimate Facebook tricks and maneuvers,” Rainsy said.
Phnom Penh court president Taing Sunlay said no action had been taken yet.
“It depends on the prosecutor whether he will charge or not,” Sunlay said.