Wednesday, 4 October 2023

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Hun Sen Facebook page reactivated days before Cambodia polls

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA — Cambodian leader Hun Sen’s Facebook page has been re-activated days before a one-sided national election, according to his assistant, who said Thursday the prime minister would not use it himself.

It is the latest twist in a row that has seen the prolific user quit Cambodia’s most popular social media site, deactivate his account, and threaten to ban the platform.

He also blacklisted more than 20 members of the Oversight Board for Facebook’s parent company Meta, after it recommended his account be suspended over a video in which he threatened to beat up his rivals.

The reactivation comes just days before a July 23 election widely dubbed a sham after authorities denied registration to the chief challenger to Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

Hun Sen’s account, which has about 14 million followers, was back online on Thursday.

“I have decided to use this page and I request that it be kept for use to serve the interest of the nation despite Samdech (Hun Sen) not using it any more,” government official Duong Dara, who runs Hun Sen’s social media, posted on the page.

Hun Sen’s Facebook page was launched in 2015 after his opponents, particularly exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy, used the platform to successfully reach younger voters.

It has been dogged by allegations that a significant chunk of fans come from “click farms” –- networks of fake and real users controlled by digital middlemen who sell likes.

In July, the platform’s oversight committee recommended that Hun Sen’s Facebook and Instagram accounts be suspended for six months due to a video he posted in January.

In the clip, he told opponents they would face legal action or a beating with sticks if they accused his party of vote theft in July’s polls.

Meta’s decision to remove the clip drew a furious reaction from Hun Sen, with his foreign ministry describing the action as “political in nature”.

Among the world’s longest-serving leaders, Hun Sen is expected to hand the reins to his eldest son Hun Manet when he retires.

Rights groups accuse Hun Sen of using the legal system to crush any opposition, and scores of political opponents have been convicted during his time in power.


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