A Cambodian People’s Party official was summonsed to Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday to clarify the defamation suit he launched against opposition leader Sam Rainsy over a Facebook spat.
Som Soeun, chief of the technical group of the CPP website, said he had instructed people to “like” Prime Minister Hun Sen’s page, but denied Rainsy’s allegation he had told them to create fake accounts to bolster the premier’s following.
Soeun took issue with Rainsy “distorting” a directive to CPP members in a Facebook post on March 9.
“The message was mine. I made it to instruct the party members to like Samdech’s [Hun Sen’s] Facebook page. That’s all,” Soeun said.
He said his five-point plan told members they should help other members to create an account and like the page – but he did not address the point of “un-liking” Rainsy’s page.
“There is no part of the message that said we have to create fake accounts . . . the account is real, not fake,” he said.
“He [Rainsy] distorted the message by claiming that I instructed supporters including civil servants, police and soldiers.
The party never instructed [them] to do that; we instructed only the party members.”
Rainsy disagreed yesterday, saying that Hun Sen was “a Facebook cheater” and that Soeun had “implicitly and actually asked CPP supporters to use all possible technical means” to inflate the prime minister’s “likes”.
“Nobody should be surprised with regard to the CPP’s unscrupulous way of collecting Facebook ‘likes’ in Cambodia, where the ruling party has mobilised the whole state apparatus to support Hun Sen’s offensive in the social network,” he said via email.
The defamation case comes in the wake of a Post report that showed 80 per cent of the premier’s most-recent “likes” had come from abroad, raising questions about their authenticity.
CPP spokesperson Sok Eysan yesterday was forced to backpedal on his previous assertion that members “came voluntarily to like without being instructed”.
“As [Soeun] insisted, there was no bribery, no threat; he just instructed. It is simple, because the instruction is not for the opposition party, it is for the CPP and the general public to like. It is not wrong.”
Soeun said that he sued Sam Rainsy for 20 million riel, about $5,000, because he wanted justice.
“If I win, I will give this 20 million riel to Facebook groups to use it for humanitarian work for the people,” he said.
Additional reporting by Erin Handley