Prime Minister Hun Sen’s official Facebook page was hacked on Monday, with analysts saying a post threatening to shut down the social media platform in Cambodia was designed to present him in a negative light.
“The Facebook company deleted and tried to shut down my account. I, Hun Sen, would like to respond that if you dare shut down my Facebook, I will shut down Facebook in Cambodia.”
However, less than an hour later, a post appeared saying the account had been hacked. It said a large amount of data had been deleted by the hackers, who had the intention to “cause social poison and to destroy information in [Cambodian] society”.
Duong Dara, who manages Hun Sen’s Facebook account, said on Monday: “Hackers deleted posts which were popular among citizens and the youth."
“The popular posts and activities were deleted. First, they deleted the posts and finally, they wrote the post to cause confusion in society.”
He said the prime minister’s account had not been completely controlled by the hackers, but they had made themselves “editors” over the previous five days. This allowed them to edit posts and delete data.
Hackers had tried to hack Hun Sen’s personal Facebook many times before, he added.
Neither Chea Pov, the director of the anti-cybercrime department at the Ministry of Interior nor spokespersons for the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications could be reached for comment on Monday.
Ministry of Interior spokesperson Phat Sophanit said technical authorities were investigating the matter.
There was a spike in social media debate on Monday lunchtime after Hun Sen’s Facebook page – with nearly 11 million followers – posted the message threatening to shut down Facebook.
A Facebook user named Kea Sopheak wrote: “Much too selfish, [Hun Sen]. It’s only your Facebook that [wasn’t working for you], but [you] have caused annoyance to the whole country.
“I just want to clarify that Cambodia is not the absolute property of your family.”
Facebook user “Assembly” accused Hun Sen of trying to shut down Facebook in Cambodia by using claims of being hacked as an excuse.
“Actually, Hun Sen wants to curb the freedom of the people [to know] the facts about the crimes committed by his inner circle,” the post claimed without pointing to any proof.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said hacking was a crime of the information technology age, with Hun Sen now becoming a victim.
He said the hackers intended to paint the prime minister as behaving irrationally.
“To a reasonable person, it is probably not right to retaliate to the hacking of his [Hun Sen’s] Facebook account by shutting down the country’s entire Facebook system,” he said.
Kin Phea, director-general of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, echoed Mong Hay’s view, saying hackers had tried to misrepresent Hun Sen.
“Their message had clear intent. They wanted to make a misperception that [Hun Sen] only thought about himself and not the general public."
“They also wanted to [make people believe] that the prime minister was a dictator and made decisions as he wanted. Their intention was to sow public confusion."
“If we did not know any better, the message sounded like [Hun Sen] because he is a leader who [speaks] clearly, sharply and straight to the point."
“Therefore, the language used was like the character of him [Hun Sen] – sharp and clear,” he said.
Phea said the hacking was clearly politically motivated “because Prime Minister Hun Sen is the most important political figure in Cambodia”.