Deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha on Thursday told a conference of the CNRP’s provincial youth leaders to be careful with what they post on Facebook, asking them to remain polite in political arguments to prevent provoking any trouble with the ruling CPP.
Chairing the meeting at CNRP headquarters in Phnom Penh in the absence of opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who is in self-imposed exile in Europe to avoid arrest here, Mr. Sokha called on the assembled youth leaders not to give any pretext for attacks on the CNRP.
Mr. Sokha noted that a spate of assaults on the CNRP over the past two months—including attacks on two lawmakers, the arrest warrant for Mr. Rainsy and his own legally dubious ouster as a parliamentary leader—have drawn international rebukes against the CPP.
“It’s like it’s helping us to advertise, but we do not want these incidents to happen, and we hate violence and injustice,” Mr. Sokha said. “We should not play the game they’re drawing for us to walk along to make danger for us—especially on Facebook.”
“I’d like to ask everyone to be careful with using Facebook and to not fall for their traps, and…not to use bad words,” he added.
“Don’t teach the youth to fight with the youth. It looks bad. Before, the old politicians used to hurt each other but don’t transmit this disease to the youth. It’s time to end this,” he said.
While the opposition’s surprise performance in the disputed 2013 national election, in which it came within seven seats of winning, has been attributed to its use of Facebook, the social networking site has caused it issues of late.
Opposition Senator Hong Sok Hour is in prison over a video posted to Facebook in which he presents a forged diplomatic treaty, while Mr. Rainsy is facing yet another defamation suit over false claims he made in a Facebook post after going into exile.
Arrest warrants have also been issued for two of Mr. Rainsy’s Facebook managers over the video Mr. Sok Hour appears in.
Sao Sokunthear, head of the CNRP youth wing in Battambang province, said she too had witnessed CNRP supporters getting emotional in political disputes on Facebook.
“When we get angry with them and want to show our anger and that we hate this person, we write things according to emotion,” she said.
“We know the Cambodian courts are not independent, and when they arrest us and put us in prison, how can we help our society?”
However, Yon Kimdorn, head of the CNRP youth wing in Kampot province, noted that Facebook was not the only place where political discussion was happening.
“The political situation in Cambodia is getting hot at the national level, but for the locals in Kampot, the CPP side thinks that these actions will reduce the power of [opposition] supporters,” he said.
“In contrast, in the coffee shops and restaurants of Kampot province, there are great discussions about the political situation. Before, they never dared to do it when they created these storms for our opposition.”