A sexually charged smear campaign against opposition lawmakers reached the top of the CNRP on Monday, when the website that has led the drive posted a recording reportedly of party leader Sam Rainsy “seducing” a waitress during a telephone call.
Summarizing its own coverage of the scandals, which has been based on recordings of telephone conversations posted anonymously to Facebook, the Fresh News website wrote alongside the latest recording that “2017 is the year that CNRP’s heads have faced many alleged mistresses.”
If the Fresh News reports are to be believed, opposition lawmakers are having affairs with factory workers, hairdressers, waitresses and even each other. While the CPP claims no involvement in the leaks, it has happily used them to attack the character of their opponents.
Fresh News headlined its latest leak, “The scandal of Mr. Sam Rainsy related to a restaurant waitress is revealed on Facebook this morning,” along with a video of the recording playing over a photo of the CNRP president with text that reads “Explosion of CNRP top leaders scandal.”
While the man in the recording sounds similar to Mr. Rainsy, the flirtatious conversation steers clear of anything overtly sexual in nature, instead focusing on how recently and often the woman ate, showered and slept, as well as when they might meet again.
“When you arrived home, did you take a bath?” the man asks the giggling woman.
“Please, eat again. Go and see, there is cool rice—something in kitchen—in order to…maintain a good body. And today is Thursday. Tomorrow is Friday, then Saturday. Saturday we’ll meet with each other.”
As with all of the other leaks, it is unclear how the recording was obtained.
Despite the mostly mundane chatter, the Fresh News story quotes a post from the “Sei Ha” Facebook page, saying it offered proof that Mr. Rainsy had a ferocious sexual appetite and bad character.
“Please all CNRP supporters listen and consider, this is the truth that I wish to show to brothers and sisters to know about Sam Rainsy’s horny behavior. For brothers and sisters and me, my family, often promoted him as ‘Mr. President’ but the truth is he’s a bad person,” it said.
Mr. Rainsy did not respond to questions about the recording.
Lim Cheavutha, who founded Fresh News in 2014 and says its smartphone app has been downloaded 850,000 times, insisted on Monday that the website was not a political tool, but rather offered stories that would excite readers.
“It is interesting to the readers—the top leaders in the world, when they have the scandal, that news will be big. Like Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky,” he said of the former U.S. president and an intern he confessed to having sexual relations with.
“For me, I think it is interesting news to the readers so I am interested in publishing it,” he added. “What I publish I take from the Facebook user named Sei Ha. I only copy 100 percent.”
Fresh News has in recent months become Prime Minister Hun Sen’s favored media outlet for exclusive interviews on hot issues of the day.
Asked why the website did not report on alleged scandals involving the prime minister, such as an online conversation in which Mr. Hun Sen allegedly offered Facebook star Thy Sovantha $1 million to attack the CNRP, Mr. Cheavutha said he could not prove their veracity.
“When I got the comment from the government official they denied it, so I did not publish it,” he said.
Asked why he handled allegations against the prime minister so differently from claims about the opposition leader, he said: “It is my right.”
“For my media, I do not publish one side, but sometimes when I call the CNRP it is very difficult to contact them,” he added.
Mr. Cheavutha said he had no idea who was operating the “Sei Ha” Facebook account, the platform of a recent barrage of leaks, or “Truth of the CNRP,” a Facebook page that has released similar conversations along with scathing messages.
“Actually, when it posted and we found it, we clicked ‘like’ and added them as friends,” he said.
Ruling party spokesman Sok Eysan suggested that the opposition lawmakers were guilty of the various acts they had been accused of unless they filed a legal complaint that led to a different finding in court.
“They should file a complaint in order to find justice. Don’t yell that someone slanders you. Whether it’s true or not, you must dare to face it,” he said.
Asked why the leaks were pouring out at the same time that the CPP is turning up the heat on the opposition, threatening a new law that could see the party disbanded ahead of the June commune elections, Mr. Eysan said the timing was a coincidence.
“It’s like a storm. When it comes, it comes without notice,” he said.
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann declined to comment on the latest recording, or offer any thoughts on the leaks spread by Fresh News.
“We have a lot of things to deal with—poverty, corruption, the destruction of natural resources—this is what we should be focusing on,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Kim Chan)