World Bulletin / News Desk
The group was speaking out after Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) leader Sam Rainsy emailed Crystal Patterson, the government and politics outreach manager at Facebook, to raise the issue of the “likes” on Prime Minister Hun Sen’s official Facebook page.
A large number of these have been found to originate in countries like India and the Philippines, where “click farms” can bolster a page’s popularity in exchange for money.
In a Facebook post Friday, the Cambodia-America Alliance (CAA) said Rainsy has been focusing too much on the provenance of Facebook “likes” on Hun Sen’s page, when there were far more pressing matters at stake.
“Mr. Sam Rainsy, people are still without proper healthcare, land is still being stolen, natural resources are still being pillaged, Dr. Kem Ley's death is still unanswered, corruption is still rampant, rights and political activists are still wrongfully jailed, your 2nd in command is still under house arrest, your shadow government fell flat on its face and you're still in exile,” the CAA said.
“For the sake of the Kingdom and Khmer people, why don't you concentrate on those issues instead of something so ridiculously minuscule and juvenile? Are or are you not for a better Cambodia?”
In his email to Patterson on Thursday, Rainsy explained that the mysteriously inflated number of “likes” “can have far-reaching consequences and be very damaging for the public in general and for me in particular, if we don't set the record straight”.
He said that speaking out about the allegedly fake “likes” had landed him with another defamation lawsuit “before the politically biased Cambodian court and this could mean a jail sentence for me”.
He asked Facebook to investigate the popularity of Hun Sen’s page and “uphold a real code of conduct for all Facebook users and to sanction those who blatantly violate it”.
Contacted by Anadolu Agency regarding CAA’s allegations on Friday, Rainsy said by email to “please look at my other Facebook posts”, and attached an 11-page document into which he had copied and pasted status updates on youth unemployment, the party’s economic policies and concerns about the country’s rice sector.
Rainsy has been living in self-imposed exile since late last year in order to avoid a prison sentence in a separate defamation case filed against him by the former foreign minister, Hor Namhong.
Last week, he posted a picture of himself crouching under bunches of grapes, with a caption that read “holidays in a vineyard in France”.
His deputy, Kem Sokha, has been holed up at the CNRP’s headquarters for several weeks to avoid being arrested in connection with a case that government critics have said is politically motivated, after conversations between him and a mistress were leaked in February.
In July, Kem Ley, a prominent political analyst, was gunned down as he got his morning coffee at a petrol station in central Phnom Penh.
Hun Sen has denied buying “likes” from offshore “click farms”.