Prime Minister Hun Sen has slammed former opposition leader Sam Rainsy for filing a landmark lawsuit against Facebook relating to allegations of “false likes” on the premier’s account.
The lawsuit lodged in the United States last week seeks to get Facebook to release information on Mr Hun Sen’s use of the social media platform, Mr Rainsy’s legal team said.
Mr Rainsy wants information on allegations of “false likes” on Mr Hun Sen’s Facebook account, accusations that the platform had been used to make death threats and the use of state money for advertisements, his legal team added.
Facebook says more than 5.5 million people have expressed an interest in, or liked, pages related to Mr Hun Sen, of whom 1.8 million are in Cambodia.
Comparable figures for Mr Rainsy are 2.2 million people expressing an interest, with 1.7 million within Cambodia.
Speaking during a university graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh yesterday, Mr Hun Sen said he has no idea where his “likes” on Facebook originate from.
“How can I know where the ‘likes’ come from? Anyone can click ‘like’,” he said.
“You are playing on Facebook and losing, so you try to make a problem for me. You are crazy,” he added, addressing Mr Rainsy directly.
Mr Rainsy’s legal case against Facebook seeks disclosure of Facebook’s records relating to Mr Hun Sen’s and his allies’ alleged misuse of the site.
“There is significant evidence that Hun Sen and his agents have systematically misused Facebook’s platform in violation of its policies, principles, and community standards,” the complaint said.
“We are counting on Facebook to help shed light on the regime’s manipulation of technology. If Hun Sen has nothing to hide, he should support our investigation of his activities,” it went on.
As of yesterday, Mr Hun Sen’s Facebook page had nearly 10 million “likes”, while Mr Rainsy’s had just over four million.
Mr Hun Sen’s official Facebook page was announced by his cabinet in September 2015.
An analysis by social media firm Socialbakers showed in 2016 that only 57 percent of Mr Hun Sen’s Facebook “likes” came from inside Cambodia, with rest coming from countries including India, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam and Brazil.
On Friday, Mr Hun Sen vowed to keep Mr Rainsy out of the country’s political sphere until the day he dies.
“If Sen is here, Sy cannot be. If Sy is here, Sen cannot be,” he said, referring to himself and Mr Rainsy.
Mr Rainsy criticised Mr Hun Sen’s comments as lacking the spirit of reunification, but Mr Hun Sen hit back, saying he had already given the exiled former opposition leader two pardons, yet Mr Rainsy still refused to “stop his propaganda”.
“You have to apologise to the Cambodian people about your propaganda,” Mr Hun Sen said yesterday.
Prominent political analyst Lao Mong Hay said that Mr Hun Sen had several months ago urged people to ignore Mr Rainsy and not to react to his statements.
Mr Rainsy was earlier pardoned in defamation cases against him in 2005 and 2013. With Reuters