Cambodian Prime Minister warns critics on Facebook that they can be traced

Phnom Penh Post, Cambodian independent newspaper reports that Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has said that Facebook users who insult him or criticise government policy on sensitive issues could be traced in a matter of hours.

“My opponents should not make insults, because we can identify you,” Hun Sen said during a speech at a Phnom Penh graduation ceremony.

“I’m not exactly sure how the technology works . . . But we can find those people; it’s not very difficult.

“We arrested the colour revolutionaries immediately,” he added, in an apparent reference to a first-year university student arrested in August after advocating nonviolent regime change on Facebook.

“If I want to get you, I need less than seven hours,” he said. “I won’t need to send forces from Phnom Penh; I can also order local forces. You should not use bad words to insult me, because I can get you if I want to.”

“I want you to know that . . . I see what you write and just want to educate you.”

Hun Sen embraced the widely popular social media platform after almost losing a 2013 election when the opposition won a surge of support online.

He denied using Facebook initially but subsequently admitted it was his. This move coincided with the Cambodian government’s moves to ramp up its cyber presence to address dwindling public support and online presence of critics and opposition parties.

Seventy percent of Cambodia’s 15 million population are under 30 years of age, while nine million of its citizens use the Internet.

Chak Sopheap, executive director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, urged politicians to “teach the people how to use social networks correctly”.

“If (users) are worried about incorrectly sharing information, insulting, being arrested or sharing false information, political parties should teach them how to use (social media) responsibly and safely.”

The Singapore government also makes such requests to Facebook for information about individuals on the social media platform for various reasons at an increasing rate.

Facebook shared in its government request report that it received 148 requests from the Singapore government to reveal information from accounts, 306 requests in 2014 and 198 in the first half of 2015.

But users should not worry that much if their comments online, do not violate the law.

Facebook’s statement on the conditions for such discloure of information,  “We respond to valid requests relating to criminal cases. Each and every request we receive is checked for legal sufficiency and we reject or require greater specificity on requests that are overly broad or vague.”