In just four days, the reputation of a Buddhist monk who had spent decades fighting for the human rights of Cambodians was destroyed.
First, grainy videos appeared on a fake Facebook page, claiming that he had slept with three sisters and their mother. Then a government-controlled religious council defrocked the monk for having violated Buddhist precepts of celibacy. Fearing imminent arrest, the monk fled Cambodia, destined for a life in exile, like so many people who have stood up to Asia’s longest-governing leader.
The monk, Luon Sovath, was the victim of a smear campaign this summer that relied on fake claims and hastily assembled social media accounts designed to discredit an outspoken critic of the country’s authoritarian policies. A New York Times investigation found evidence that government employees were involved in the creation and posting of the videos on Facebook.
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