Rainsy Convicted of Defamation

May Titthara / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Self-exiled Cambodia National Rescue Party president Sam Rainsy has been convicted again in absentia of defamation. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Self-exiled Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) president Sam Rainsy was convicted in absentia yesterday of defamation and fined 25 million riel (about $6,000) for repeatedly claiming the large number of Facebook “likes” on Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Facebook page had been bought.
 
Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge Im Vannak said Mr. Rainsy would have to pay 10 million riel to the state and 15 million riel to the “victims” – ostensibly meaning Som Soeun, a high-ranking ruling party official in charge of the prime minister’s social media outreach.
 
“I see that the court has examined the criteria and provided justice for me as a victim. Mr. Sam Rainsy slandered and distorted the facts. I’m happy for the court to have protected justice,” Mr. Soeun said.
 
At the center of the dispute were the “likes” on Mr. Hun Sen’s Facebook page, which skyrocketed after the premier implored his officials to make more of an effort to connect with the younger generation through social media.
 
But analysis done by a number of news outlets revealed that many of Mr. Hun Sen’s “likes” were coming from India and the Philippines – two countries known for housing “click farms” which people pay to boost the number of “likes” on their page.
 
Mr. Rainsy echoed that claim on his own Facebook page, repeatedly writing that the prime minister had bought most of the “likes” on his page.
In a Facebook post yesterday, Mr. Rainsy stood by his comments and refused to back down.
 
“On the basis of a [leaked but subsequently confirmed] secret instruction from the CPP [Cambodian People’s Party] central headquarters which I am posting again, I stand by my initial statement that the CPP-affiliated government officials and other state employees have been instructed to create fake Facebook accounts in order to provide fake “likes” to Mr. Hun Sen’s Facebook page,” he said.
 
“I also confirm that Mr. Hun Sen also bought millions of fake ‘likes’ from ‘click-farms’ located in many countries all over the world,” he said.
 
He added that Mr. Hun Sen was using this “fake” popularity to justify and legitimize the “ongoing violent crackdown” and silence his critics.
 
“Citizens, please note the inequity and tricks of our leaders today,” Mr. Rainsy said.
 
On March 10, 64-year-old Mr. Soeun filed a complaint against the CNRP president, claiming he “slandered” and “distorted the facts” by accusing him and other government officials of creating fake Facebook accounts to boost Mr. Hun Sen’s number of “likes” and claiming that many of the “likes” on his page were paid for.
 
Mr. Rainsy’s lawyer, Sam Sokong, said they were dissatisfied with the verdict and would continue to fight the case.
 
“We will prepare to file complaints to the Appeal Court to review this decision,” he said.
 
Mr. Rainsy has faced an onslaught of complaints and charges since he fled the country last November. In addition to the defamation charges filed by Mr. Soeun, National Assembly President Heng Samrin has also sued the opposition leader for defamation.
 
He was convicted and fined in another defamation case earlier this year after falsely claiming that former Foreign Minister Hor Namhong was the Boeung Trabek prison chief during the Khmer Rouge regime.
 
Mr. Rainsy was banned from Cambodia last month after a series of internal government edicts were released detailing specific efforts taken to keep him out of the country.
 
The government has been in a war of words with the United Nations and the UN’s Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Cambodia.
 
UN OHCHR country representative Wan-Hea Lee last month called on the government to explain its motives, which she called “unjustified and arbitrary,” but added that the government’s explanation would likely be insufficient.
 
The government did not answer Ms. Lee’s question, but criticized the UN and said the comments about the situation had “crossed the red line of the UN Charter.”
 
Mr. Rainsy is also facing up to 17 years in prison if convicted on a forgery and incitement charge related to a video he shared on his Facebook page showing a fake border treaty involving the dissolution of the border between Vietnam and Cambodia.
 
The BBC did its own research and found that only 57 percent of Mr. Hun Sen’s Facebook “likes” came from inside Cambodia, with most coming from India, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam.
 
Up to 83 percent of the Facebook likes for Mr. Rainsy, although in exile, come from inside Cambodia, according to their analysis.

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