July 3, 2023
PHNOM PENH – Prime Minister Hun Sen has publicly affirmed that the government will not block Facebook in Cambodia, but will instead expell the firm’s representatives and end all forms of its representation and partnership in the country.
Hun Sen announced the decision in his audio address to the nation late on the night of June 30, allaying widespread public concerns about a potential ban on the widely popular social media platform in the Kingdom after the premier declared earlier that day that he had permanently deleted his official Facebook page, which had over 14 million followers.
He also called on the public to turn to other channels such as Telegram and TikTok for his updates instead, in case Facebook has a “problem”.
The self-deactivation came in response to the decision by Facebook’s parent company Meta to review the recommendations of its Oversight Board for a six-month suspension of his account over a January video post deemed to be a breach of its policy. The post allegedly contained threats of violence against opposition politicians who the prime minister said had repeatedly insulted him and his family as well as the ruling party via Facebook.
Hun Sen said he had decided to ditch the platform for good to end speculations surrounding the US tech titan’s measures against him.
“They [opposition] have previously [used Facebook] to urge the Cambodian armed forces to stage an uprising and arrest the prime minister by violence, but no action was ever taken [by the firm] against them,” he noted.
Despite his dismay, Hun Sen said he is “not ignorant enough” to impose a ban on Facebook as expected by the overseas-based opposition. He explained that they anticipated a shutdown as the move would fuel public anger against him.
“I understand my compatriots very well. Facebook is their popular means of communication and news sharing and a lot of people rely on the platform for their businesses. So I’m not foolish enough to cut off their lifeline,” he added, noting that the firm itself had generated substantial profits from its presence in Cambodia.
“[But] I won’t shut it down and only terminate its representation in Cambodia,” he said of his decision, as stated in an official notice by the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications shortly after his audio address.