Are Hun Sen Face­book ‘likes’

The Myanmar Times - - World -

WITH its reg­u­lar live broad­casts, rou­tine tirades and daily – of­ten cu­ri­ously in­ti­mate – photo posts, the Face­book page of Cam­bo­dian strong­man Hun Sen has won a re­mark­able 5 mil­lion fans.

But a surge of “likes” from coun­tries in­clud­ing In­dia and the Philip­pines has reignited al­le­ga­tions that his dig­i­tal ado­ra­tion is pur­chased from so-called “click farms”.

The 64-year-old prime min­is­ter, a once self-con­fessed tech di­nosaur who tol­er­ates lit­tle dis­sent, has em­braced Face­book with gusto in the past year af­ter op­po­nents used the plat­form to reach out to younger vot­ers.

He has vowed to re­main prime min­is­ter un­til he is 74, with the next elec­tion due in 2018.

To do so he will need the sup­port of Cambodia’s youth – a huge, tech­savvy de­mo­graphic who voted in droves for the op­po­si­tion at the last polls, wea­ried by the en­demic cor­rup­tion, rights abuses and po­lit­i­cal re­pres­sion seen as the hall­marks of Mr Hun Sen’s rule.

With loy­al­ists con­trol­ling nearly all of Cambodia’s main­stream me­dia out­lets, Mr Hun Sen was ini­tially wary of so­cial me­dia.

But in the last year he has em­braced the dig­i­tal sphere – while ramp­ing up pros­e­cu­tions against peo­ple for on­line com­ments.

His slick page now doc­u­ments ev­ery­thing from live broad­casts of speeches and meet­ings with vil­lagers to more per­sonal mo­ments like the prime min­is­ter kick­ing back in a white bathrobe or sport­ing a wet, seethrough sin­glet at the beach.

But that suc­cess 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 re­cent months, op­po­si­tion groups, lo­cal me­dia, an­a­lysts and even many of Mr Hun Sen’s own Face­book fol­low­ers have all re­marked on the un­usual and er­ratic surges in likes his page re­ceives.

An AFP anal­y­sis of Mr Hun Sen’s Face­book fol­low­ers over the last six months us­ing data from So­cialBak­ers.com shows two pe­ri­ods when over­seas likes have dra­mat­i­cally spiked – the most re­cent in the past three weeks.

Only 55 per­cent of Mr Hun Sen’s 5 mil­lion Face­book fol­low­ers now come from in­side Cambodia.

Many of the likes orig­i­nate in

coun­tries no­to­ri­ous for host­ing click farms, such as In­dia, In­done­sia and the Philip­pines.

In con­trast, 82pc of fol­low­ers for Sam Rainsy – the coun­try’s most prom­i­nent op­po­si­tion politi­cian – are Cam­bo­dian. He has ac­cused Mr Hun Sen of buy­ing friends. –

Photo: AFP

Cam­bo­dian Prime Min­is­ter Hun Sen steps down from a train com­part­ment as on April 30 as pho­tog­ra­phers snap pic­tures of him at the Ph­nom Penh rail­way sta­tion.

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