A CPP minister said Thursday that he was suing opposition leader Sam Rainsy over a claim made on Facebook that the minister ordered ruling party members to boost Prime Minister Hun Sen’s “like” count on the social media site with allegedly fake accounts.
In the offending post, from Wednesday, Mr. Rainsy copies a purported Facebook message from Hak Sokmakara, an undersecretary of state, relaying instructions from Som Soeun, a minister attached to the prime minister.
According to the message, Mr. Soeun instructed CPP members to “disseminate” Mr. Hun Sen’s Facebook page at party meetings, to “like” the page themselves and to urge their friends to do the same. He also told them to “unlike” Mr. Rainsy’s page.
“Executives at all party levels must constantly monitor the execution of this work at the grassroots levels as part of a broad campaign to secure victory at the elections,” the message adds.
In his own comments to his post, Mr. Rainsy says poor people in India and the Philippines were hired to create fake accounts to boost the prime minister’s numbers, citing recent media reports.
Contacted Thursday, Mr. Soeun said he filed a complaint with the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in the afternoon accusing Mr. Rainsy of “twisting the truth” and demanding 20 million riel, about $5,000, in compensation.
Mr. Soeun, who said he runs the CPP’s website and Facebook page, did not deny issuing the instructions attributed to him. But he rejected Mr. Rainsy’s suggestion that he was promoting the creation of fake accounts.
“It is not like that at all,” he said. “The additional comment is false and it affects my name and affects the honor of the leader. I am a party member; I have to protect my leader and expose His Excellency Sam Rainsy’s cheap act, which is opposite to the truth.”
The minister said Mr. Rainsy was merely jealous of the premier, who overtook the opposition leader in Facebook “likes” earlier this year—and has publicly bragged about his popularity on the social networking site.
Municipal court officials could not be reached to confirm that the complaint had been filed.
Mr. Rainsy is currently in self-imposed exile avoiding an arrest warrant for a years-old defamation conviction that authorities decided to enforce this past November.
Contacted Thursday by email, the opposition leader said he stood by the claims made in his post. He said the CPP social media instructions were authentic and had been copied from a post on Mr. Sokmakara’s page in October or November.
Mr. Rainsy said he believed Mr. Soeun was “[using] all possible technical ways to reach the objective of inflating to the maximum the number of likes for the prime minister’s Facebook page.”
“Ask any IT experts what they would do in this context in which fake likes can be industrially produced without any legal control, meaning the type of likes the Hun Sen Facebook team recently bought from India,” he said.
Additional reporting by Zsombor Peter