Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Judge rejects Rainsy’s claim that Hun Sen bought Facebook 'likes'

Judge rejects Rainsy’s claim that Hun Sen bought Facebook 'likes'

CPP social media official Som Soeun exits the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday after winning a defamation case against opposition leader Sam Rainsy.
CPP social media official Som Soeun exits the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday after winning a defamation case against opposition leader Sam Rainsy. Niem Chheng

Judge rejects Rainsy’s claim that Hun Sen bought Facebook 'likes'

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday found Cambodian National Rescue Party president Sam Rainsy guilty of defamation for claiming Prime Minister Hun Sen and his social media team artificially bolstered the premier’s “likes” on Facebook.

Rainsy was convicted of defaming Som Soeun, a CPP official attached to the prime minister, by accusing him of ordering CPP members and state employees to create “fake accounts” to like the premier in a Facebook post on March 9.

The complaint also concerned Rainsy’s accusations that Hun Sen had purchased “likes” from “click farms”, operations in which low-paid workers create fake accounts to help bolster likes, followers and views on social media profiles.

Presiding judge Im Vannak said the “ill-minded” opposition leader, who fled abroad last year to avoid arrest in a separate case, had damaged Soeun’s dignity and confused the public.

“The fault cannot be excused, because the accused is an adult, a politician, and he has not been deterred,” said Vannak, who ordered Rainsy pay Soeun $3,750 in compensation and pay an additional $2,500 to the state in fines.

In a seemingly unprecedented ruling, Vannak also ordered that the decision be broadcast via local media for three days, but did not explain how such an order would be enforced.

The incriminating post by Rainsy highlighted a Post story in March that revealed that 80 per cent of the premier’s Facebook “likes” in the preceding month had originated abroad, with the CNRP president alleging the followers had been bought from “click farms”.

Alongside this, Rainsy published a set of instructions from Soeun directing CPP members to promote the premier’s Facebook page at “all meetings”, ensure all members “like” his page and “unlike” Rainsy’s page, and to organise “technical working groups” to create accounts to “like” Hun Sen.

The opposition leader said the instructions showed the CPP was pushing its “officials, supporters and networks – including civil servants, policemen and soldiers” to create “fake accounts” to bolster the premier’s Facebook popularity.

During the hearing, Soeun acknowledged he had issued the directive for CPP members to encourage them to follow the premier’s page. However, he said he took issue with Rainsy’s “exaggeration” that the instructions amounted to creating “fake accounts” and applied to civil servants, police and soldiers.

Soeun also said he was compelled to complain because of the click farm remarks.

“What he said affected the dignity of Samdech Techo [Hun Sen] and . . . my dignity,” he said.

Rainsy’s defence lawyer, Sam Sokong, however, questioned whether any real damage could be attributed to Rainsy’s post, noting his client’s right to freedom of expression.

“There is no harm to the victim,” said Sokong, who later flagged his intention to appeal.

Meanwhile, Rainsy yesterday said that he stood by his posts.

“Prime Minister Hun Sen has been manipulating Facebook figures in order to boast about his (apparently impressive but fake) popularity, which he uses as a political justification to legitimise the ongoing violent crackdown on his more and more numerous critics,” he wrote.

MOST VIEWED

  • Angkor lifetime pass, special Siem Reap travel offers planned

    The Ministry of Tourism plans to introduce a convenient, single lifetime pass for foreign travellers to visit Angkor Archaeological Park and potentially other areas. The move is designed to stimulate tourism to the culturally rich province of Siem Reap as the start of the “Visit

  • ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ meet commences, Taiwan issue possibly on table

    The 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) and related meetings hosted by Cambodia kicks off in Phnom Penh on August 3, with progress, challenges, and the way forward for the ASEAN Community-building on the table. Issues on Taiwan, sparked by the visit of US House Speaker

  • Pailin longan winery tries to break through to the big time

    Longan aren’t quite as glamorous as some fruits. They don’t have the star-power of mangos or generate the excitement of a pricey seasonal niche fruit like the pungent durian. Unlike bananas or oranges, which are known and loved everywhere, longan remains a decidedly

  • Recap of this year’s ASEAN FM meet and look ahead

    This year’s edition of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) hosted by Cambodia comes against the backdrop of heightened global tensions and increasing rivalry between major powers that have been compared to the animosity of the Cold War era. The following is The Post’

  • Debt restructuring over, time to tackle rising NPL ratio

    The Cambodian banking system has just completed a 26-month debt restructuring exercise where scores of loan accounts were revised, classified and provisioned as the rate of non-performing loans inched up, sparking a slight credit risk unease Implemented in April 2020, the Covid-19 debt restructuring measures came

  • Koh Slaket studio resort brings culture with style

    Davitra (Cambodia) Co Ltd’s multi-million-dollar 13ha Koh Slaket studio-cum-resort just east of the capital was inaugurated in the first phase on August 6, providing national and international tourists with a new travel option and job opportunities for locals. The man-made cultural and scenic lakefront getaway