Political rivalry has hit the social media scene in Cambodia. It has reached a point where Prime Minister Hun Sen had to actually deny on 17 March that he had bought fake 'likes' on his Facebook page. The 63-year-old leader, who has described himself as a digital dinosaur has recently started posting daily Facebook updates.
He has even taken it a step further with a tailored app which features news about his everyday life. According to AFP, he has already had 3.2 million likes, becoming one of the country's fastest-growing and most popular pages.
The Prime Minister's latest post on the Plenary Council of Ministers meeting that he had chaired. The post received more than 7,000 likes and was shared 1,225 times.
This however has not gone down well with his political rival. Self-exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy has accused Hun Sen of hiring foreigners to create fake Facebook accounts to artificially boost his page's popularity.
The accusation stems from a report by English daily Phnom Penh Post that nearly half of Hun Sen's 'likes' came from accounts held outside the country, mostly from India. The paper claimed that Rainsy's page on the other hand, which had nearly 2.3 million 'likes' came from inside Cambodia.
Speaking at a university graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh, Hun Sen said: "I don't know where those 'likes' are from. If I could buy India, I must be really strong. But I am just happy that I, Hun Sen, have been recognised by Indian people and people in other countries as the Prime Minister of Cambodia."
Political analysts said that Hun Sen's venture into the social media arena is aimed at wooing young voters as he seeks to extend his more than 30-year grip on power ahead of local elections next year and national polls in 2018. Ou Virak, Cambodian political analyst told AFP: "This is yet another sign Hun Sen is desperately trying to halt his waning popularity.
He said that both politicians have been spending money to promote their pages. Rainsy who lives abroad to avoid arrest warrants in Cambodia, has also been active in social media as a means to attract the young crowd.