Khmer Times / By Taing Vida Monday, 25 January 2016 108 views
Prime Minister Hun Sen did not even bother to name the political rival he mocked on his Facebook page yesterday as he surpassed the 2 million-like mark yesterday, claiming that he was able to achieve in four months what self-exiled Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) president Sam Rainsy took more than two years to accomplish online.
Mr. Hun Sen’s Facebook page has been gathering 10,000 likes a day recently, with “Likes” accelerating after his cabinet officially announced in September that the page was in fact Mr. Hun Sen’s. The announcement was made after the page, which was set up more than two years ago, surpassed 1 million “Likes” on August 22.
Mr. Hun Sen wrote in a post yesterday that Facebook brought him closer to his supporters within and outside the country, and that it had boosted confidence in his leadership and ability to ensure peace in the country.
Mr. Hun Sen also used the occasion to ridicule those who had accused him and his ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) of buying votes to win elections. “He blamed the National Election Commission every time he lost the election,” Mr. Hun Sen wrote, referring to Mr. Rainsy. “This time, if he is jealous about the number of people who like my Facebook account, I hope he does not make trouble for Facebook Company and accuse me of giving sarongs and seasoning to persuade or convince users to like [my page],” the prime minister wrote.
As of yesterday evening, Mr. Rainsy – who is currently living in France – had 2 million and 65 thousand likes, after opening his own Facebook page before the 2013 election. “I hope the senior [politician] who claimed to be king of Facebook will understand [the importance of] this [achievement] because I am a newcomer with just four months. If my page receives more likes, please do not insult me, my supporters or the Facebook Company,” Mr. Hun Sen added.
Tith Sothea, deputy director of the Council of Ministers’ Press and Quick Reaction Unit, said Prime Minister Hun Sen has gained an increasing number of likes due to his smart leadership, and said the premier’s quick responses to address concerns posted on his Facebook page by citizens had also boosted his popularity.
“Unlike other politicians, Prime Minister Hun Sen does not make fake promises. He solves every concern raised by the people. I would not dare to make a comparison between him and the unrighteous person [Mr. Rainsy]. I have no doubt that Prime Minister Hun Sen will be more popular in the future,” Mr. Sothea added.
The surge in the popularity of Mr. Hun Sen’s Facebook is no accident, sources told Khmer Times. Rather, it is part of a strategic plan by the CPP to win the next election through a carefully planned rebranding of the party and Mr. Hun Sen, they said. This strategy was developed with some assistance from the Hong Kong office of a global public relations firm, sources added. It is being implemented through all levels of the CPP, from the national to the commune level, and includes workshops on how to use social media to promote the CPP, officials in the ruling party said. Government spokesmen either could not be reached yesterday to comment on whether the CPP was receiving rebranding or related assistance from a global public relations firm, or declined to answer the question.
CNRP spokesman Yem Ponhearith said he believed that Mr. Hun Sen’s Facebook page would surpass Mr. Rainsy’s in “likes” by the end of this month. “I congratulate the fact that both leaders are using social media to provide information and news to Cambodian people,” Mr. Ponhearith said. “They are filling their pages with both positive and negative issues about Cambodia society” he added.
Mr. Ponhearith also said that the number of “likes” does not translate into supporters. People who follow the pages of Mr. Hun Sen and Mr. Rainsy are looking for news and updates of the activities of the leaders, he explained. “Likes are supporters and also haters,” Mr. Ponhearith said, adding that he was one of the “likes” on Mr. Hun Sen’s Facebook page.
Social Researcher Kem Ley agreed that Mr. Hun Sen’s Facebook page received “likes” from “haters.” The 2 million likes include CPP members, working group members, government officials, supporters, followers, media personnel and researchers, Mr. Ley said.
“The difference between Hun Sen and Sam Rainsy on their Facebook pages is that in the posts one is trying to show off what has been achieved in the country and the other is trying to expose the problems and the negative sides of the government,” Mr. Ley said. He also said there was a similarity between the two pages. “One similar thing is that they both have never posted a clear in-depth political opinion or strategies for development in specific areas, such as poverty and the border issue,” Mr. Ley said.
Like Mr. Ponhearith and Mr. Sothea, Mr. Ley said Mr. Hun Sen’s Facebook page would soon surpass Mr. Rainsy’s Facebook page soon. It is doubtful that the “likes” both leaders claim could be fake, Mr. Ley added. – Additional Reporting by Vincent MacIsaac