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Cambodian PM quits Facebook on eve of poll campaign

PHNOM PENH (AFP) – Cambodian leader Hun Sen, a prolific Facebook user, vowed yesterday to quit posting on the platform, days before he launches a re-election campaign.

Cambodia will go to the polls on July 23 in an election that has been widely dubbed a sham after authorities denied registration to the chief challenger to Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

Hun Sen is among the world’s longest-serving leaders and, after 38 years in power, is on the cusp of retiring.

His son Hun Manet is slated to lead the kingdom in the future.

Hun Sen announced yesterday he’ll now use the Telegram app to relay his political messages to supporters and TikTok to engage with youth.

“From now on, I will no longer post on Facebook,” Hun Sen told thousands of garment workers at an event. His Telegram channel has 860,000 followers and he has ramped up activity in recent months posting pictures and political messages.

Cambodian leader Hun Sen. PHOTO: AFP

Hun Sen, who will kick off his re-election campaign on Saturday, said the Telegram app was “more efficient compared to Facebook”.

His Facebook page – which remains online – was launched in 2015 after his opponents, particularly exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy, used the platform to successfully reach younger voters.

It has 14 million followers but the account 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.

Hun Sen’s move away from Facebook follows media reports that Facebook’s parent company, Meta, could limit his activities after he spoke live on the platform threatening to beat up opposition politicians in a ceremony earlier this year.

In January, Hun Sen warned opponents that they would face legal action or a beating with sticks if they accused his party of vote theft in July’s national polls.

Sebastian Strangio, the author of “Hun Sen’s Cambodia”, said the timing indicated it was likely a preemptive response to the decision of Meta’s oversight board, which has recommended a six-month suspension of Hun Sen’s Facebook and Instagram accounts.

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