Partyforumseasia: Politicians cannot be everywhere in person but they can be omnipresent in the media and especially the social media. Facebook has been discovered as a popularity gauge and booster by practically all leaders world-wide and of course in Southeast Asia. The higher echelons have their support teams who constantly feed the perceived or imagined demands of voters and respond to online questions coming in.
Cambodia has made sufficient progress in internet penetration to make Facebook accounts for the leaders attractive. But boasting about increasing numbers of visits and likes can be a trap as well, as shown in the recent “Facebook war” between Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition leader in exile Sam Rainsy.
On 6 March the Prime Minister had thanked his “national compatriots and youths in the country and overseas” for pushing his likes over the three million mark. Only a few days later, the Phnom Penh Post (Link) revealed that, over the last 30 days, only 20% of the likes had originated from Cambodia (see chart above):
“The biggest influx, 255,692, came from India, where a total of 332,475 Facebook accounts “like” Hun Sen. Further, over the past 30 days, 98,256 accounts from the Philippines liked the premier, as did 54,972 from Myanmar, 46,368 from Indonesia, 26,527 from Brazil, 12,980 from Mexico, 4,783 from Turkey and 3,952 from the United Arab Emirates.”
Honi soit qui mal y pense or in English: Shame on whomsoever would think badly of it is the motto of the British Order of the Garter. But beware of suspecting Mr. Hun Sen or his staff of buying Facebook likes in countries as far as India, Brazil and Mexico.
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who is already in self-imposed exile because of an old defamation suit against him, is burning his fingers once more. On his own Facebook site he exposed instructions from Som Soeun, a Delegate Minister Attached to the Prime Ministers Office, that all rank and file party members shall support the Prime Minister’s Facebook site whenever they can. The prompt retaliation from Som Soeun was another defamation suit against Sam Rainsy.
Facebook likes can easily be bought from “click farms” in poorer countries. Be it overzealous underlings buying the Facebook likes for their leader or anything higher up, the story is as embarrassing as hilarious, if not outright ridiculous.