Days before he launches a re-election campaign, Cambodian leader Hun Sen, who is known for his frequent use of Facebook, announced on Thursday his intention to stop posting on the popular social media platform.
On Thursday, Facebook made an announcement stating that it will be taking down one of Hun Sen’s videos. This decision aligns with the ruling made by its independent Oversight Board, which concluded that the video included clear statements indicating a desire to engage in violence against his political adversaries.
The upcoming election in Cambodia, scheduled for July 23, has garnered significant criticism due to the authorities’ refusal to register the main opposition candidate against the ruling Cambodian People’s Party led by Hun Sen. Many consider this election to be fraudulent.
Hun Sen, who has been in power for 38 years, is one of the world’s longest-serving leaders and is now approaching retirement. The future leadership of the kingdom is expected to be led by his son, Hun Manet.
Hun Sen has recently decided to utilize the Telegram app as a means to communicate his political messages to his supporters, while also engaging with the younger generation through the popular platform TikTok.
“At this moment, I declare that I will cease my activity on Facebook,” Hun Sen announced to a large gathering of garment workers.
In recent months, he has been actively engaging with his 860,000 followers on his Telegram channel, sharing a variety of pictures and political messages.
Hun Sen, who is set to launch his re-election campaign on Saturday, expressed his preference for the Telegram app over Facebook, citing its higher efficiency.
His Facebook page, which is still active, was created in 2015 in response to his opponents, specifically exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy, effectively utilizing the platform to connect with younger voters.
With a staggering 14 million followers, the account has faced persistent accusations that a considerable portion of its fan base originates from “click farms.” These click farms consist of a combination of genuine and fake users, overseen by intermediaries in the digital realm who profit by selling likes.
Hun Sen’s decision to distance himself from Facebook coincided with the Oversight Board for Meta, the parent company of Facebook, suggesting a six-month suspension of his Facebook and Instagram accounts. This recommendation was made in response to a video in which he can be seen making threats of physical violence towards opposition politicians.
In January, Hun Sen issued a caution to his adversaries, stating that they would encounter legal consequences or physical retribution if they made allegations of vote manipulation against his party in the upcoming national elections in July.
The Oversight Board of Meta, a panel that operates independently and is financially supported by the company, recently reversed the social network’s choice to keep the video online due to its “newsworthiness.” They also suggested a six-month suspension for Hun Sen’s accounts.
According to a statement from the Oversight Board, due to the seriousness of the offense, Hun Sen’s track record of human rights violations and intimidation of political adversaries, and his deliberate utilization of social media to magnify these threats, the Board urges Meta to promptly suspend Hun Sen’s Facebook page and Instagram account for a duration of six months.
After several hours, Meta announced its intention to adhere to the ruling and remove the content.
A statement mentioned that the recommendations given by the board, along with their decision, will be thoroughly reviewed. Once this analysis is completed, a response will be provided regarding the board’s suggestion to suspend Prime Minister Hun Sen’s accounts.
– ‘Significant risks’ According to Sebastian Strangio, the author of “Hun Sen’s Cambodia,” Hun Sen’s decision to withdraw seems to be a proactive response to the Oversight Board’s recent ruling.
He informed AFP that Hun Sen’s shift to Telegram and TikTok on social media appears to mirror Cambodia’s foreign policy shift over the last twenty years, moving away from the West and towards China and Russia.
Given their past performance, it is highly improbable that these two platforms will impose limitations on Hun Sen’s unrestricted use of them, which includes using them to provoke, provoke, and intimidate his adversaries.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated on Thursday that the confrontation between a dictator and Big Tech regarding human rights concerns was well overdue.
HRW’s Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson emphasized the significant consequences that arise when an authoritarian exploits social media to provoke violence, a distressing reality that has been witnessed numerous times in Cambodia.
Hun Sen is also accused by rights groups of utilizing the legal system to suppress opposition.
Following the dissolution of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, Hun Sen’s party emerged victorious in the 2018 national election, securing all available seats.