A new report revealed on Wednesday that Prime Minister Hun Sen is the fourth-most followed head of state on Facebook, with more fans than Cambodian Facebook users – news that comes just days after a US court suggested it would oblige the social media giant to disclose data on the premier’s “likes”.
The report, published by communications firm Burson-Marsteller, puts Hun Sen behind Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Jordan’s Queen Rania, and United States President Donald Trump. His is the fifth-most followed political page, up from eighth place last year, with the page of the Office of the Prime Minister of India also out-ranking him. According to the report, Hun Sen in mid-March reached 9.6 million page likes, about 2.5 million more than the total number of Facebook users in Cambodia. The figure represents a 48 percent jump since the beginning of 2017.
An analysis by The Post in March of 2016 revealed that a surge in likes for Hun Sen had mostly originated overseas, in countries known for harbouring “click farms”, through which users can pay for likes. Analytics through the site Socialbakers showed that just 20 percent of new followers that month were from Cambodia.
“Samdech Hun Sen often shares family pictures of himself with his wife and grandchildren, pictures of himself playing golf as well as the occasional selfie,” the report says, adding that his page has become the “go-to” for live events in Cambodia like football matches.
Hun Sen’s page has racked up 32 million views via more than 1,000 Facebook Live broadcasts, only 8 million views fewer than the White House, though it has many more broadcasts.
Former Cambodia National Rescue Party leader Sam Rainsy has long accused Hun Sen of buying likes, an allegation that saw him convicted of defamation.
On Wednesday, he and his US-based legal team welcomed a California court’s indication that Facebook will be obliged to provide information related to various ongoing court cases the self-exiled opposition figure is facing in the Kingdom.
Judge Sallie Kim said in a hearing Monday that she would “likely” instruct the social media giant to hand over pertinent data, specifically in relation to Rainsy’s domestic legal woes.
Rainsy’s head lawyer, Noah Hagey, submitted English translations of four Cambodian court documents relating to four separate convictions on Tuesday, all in relation to statements made by Rainsy on Facebook.
On top of the complaint about accusations of Hun Sen buying Facebook likes, the other cases relate to allegations by Rainsy that the Cambodian government was behind the murder of government critic Kem Ley and that Hun Sen bribed social media activist Thy Sovantha to attack the opposition. The fourth complaint was filed in response to a video posted on Facebook of Rainsy urging soldiers not to obey orders to hurt protesting civilians.
The submissions were made after Judge Kim said Monday she was inclined to honour Rainsy’s request for information from Facebook, but noted that the initial request was overly broad.
“I am grateful to the Court’s careful review of the Application, and to its indication that discovery of Facebook will be permitted,” Rainsy said in an email Wednesday.
He reiterated claims that Hun Sen and his “agents” have abused the platform to “defraud ordinary Cambodians during this critical time in our country”.
Both Hagey and Rainsy suggested that the information received could “exonerate” Rainsy in Cambodia.