Cambodia PM’s Facebook page reactivated days before election

(Reuters) – The Facebook account of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has been reactivated just a few days ahead of a lopsided election, despite the premier quitting the platform as parent Meta examined allegations he used it to threaten opponents.

The account, which has over 14 million followers, a number similar to Cambodia’s population, is now being operated by Duong Dara, a member of the social media team of Hun Sen, whose Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) is running virtually unopposed in Sunday’s election.

“I do not want to lose this important page… I have decided to reuse it and keep this page for the benefit of society,” Duong Dara said in a post, which was followed by posts urging people to vote for CPP.

A government spokesperson confirmed it would be Duong Dara, not Hun Sen, posting on the page.

The election, which will also see the political debut of the premier’s son, has been dismissed as a sham by human rights groups, which say Hun Sen has gone to great lengths to wipe out any perceived challenge to CPP’s rule and his four-decade grip on power.

Part of those clampdowns, they say, have involved his use of Facebook to intimidate political opponents, and his government’s use of the law to arrest and detain critics. The government denies that and says those penalised are law-breakers.

The Candlelight Party, Cambodia’s only opposition party of significance, was barred from running in the election over an issue with its paperwork. Two of its members were arrested this week for inciting people to destroy their ballot papers.

Hun Sen ditched Facebook last month for Telegram, which he said was a better application to communicate with the public.

It came ahead of an announcement by Meta’s independent oversight board recommending that Hun Sen be suspended from Facebook for six months for violating its community guidelines on violent threats. Cambodia responded by making the 22 members of Meta’s oversight board persona non-grata.

(Reporting by Reuters Staff; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Bernadette Baum)