The government’s Press and Quick Reaction Unit has denied any connection to the dissemination of a doctored, lewd image of opposition party member Mu Sochua that surfaced on the social media website Facebook on Saturday.
The image shows Ms. Sochua’s face superimposed on to the body of a semi-nude woman and refers to her as a former brothel madam, and to her work for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).
Ms. Sochua said Tuesday that she was appalled that a Facebook page bearing the name of the Council of Ministers’ Press and Quick Reaction Unit was among the dozens of Facebook users who spread the image.
“When I saw it I had to force myself to look at it, but I had to be strong and control my feelings as a woman because I’m in the field of politics,” she said. “It’s more than sexism, they’re targeting the top leaders of the CNRP…. For me, it says our opponents are scared.”
Spokesman for the Press and Quick Reaction Unit Ek Tha was incredulous Tuesday when asked about the Facebook page bearing the name of his office, and which also included a photograph of Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan.
Mr. Siphan said he had no connection whatsoever to the site, which he branded identity theft.
“I’ll find who did it and get the authorities to close it. It isn’t mine, it’s a fake [Facebook] account,” Mr. Siphan said.
“My government is against the people who made that picture too…. It’s uncivilized,” he said, adding that images of himself, as well as Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany, had also been doctored offensively in the past and placed online.
As of Tuesday evening, 35 people had shared the offensive image and more than 100 had posted comments, many voicing anger at the distributor of the image and support for Ms. Sochua.
“She is Khmer woman, why you post this picture like this? Your mother is woman too. Why do you do like this?” one commentator wrote.
Others simply wrote the number 7—the CNRP’s number on the July 28 national election ballot paper—to show solidarity.
(Additional reporting by Phorn Bopha)
© 2013, Kate Bartlett. All rights reserved.