With social media increasingly becoming the focal point of political discourse in the country, and the prime minister threatening to take legal action against those who insult him online, the opposition CNRP has issued an appeal to its supporters urging them not to publicly insult others.
The statement, issued Wednesday, comes after last week’s arrest of a farmer who threatened on Facebook to kill Prime Minister Hun Sen. Mr. Hun Sen has also complained on his very active Facebook page about people photoshopping images of his wife.
“The CNRP again appeals for all leaders, activists and party supporters to maintain a high level of dignity and morality by not insulting or using doctored images to insult when expressing opinions or making criticism on various media,” the CNRP’s statement reads.
It says people ought to refrain from such activities “in order to seek national reconciliation and unity.”
The message repeats advice given by CNRP Vice President Kem Sokha to a conference of youth leaders last year that party members should try to foster a more constructive political culture online.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said he was glad to see that the opposition was self-policing its speech.
“We welcome this new position, but we need to wait and see the actual activities, and whether or not the implementation is done strictly in accordance with the written appeal and its purpose,” Mr. Eysan said.
Asked whether the CPP would also tell its own members to refrain from insulting others, Mr. Eysan said that such a measure was unnecessary because only the opposition party resorted to slinging personal insults.
However, Sok Kimseng, the deputy executive director of the opposition party in Siem Reap province, said that although he said he welcomed the new call for civility, being rude was not the exclusive domain of the CNRP.
“In fact, it’s not only leaders of the ruling party who have been criticized rudely and through insulting words—leaders of the opposition party have had their images edited and doctored insultingly too.”