Som Soeun speaks with reporters outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday after winning his lawsuit. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Cambodia’s Appeal Court on Thursday upheld the verdict of a lower court ordering self-exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy to pay 6,250 U.S. dollars in fine and compensation for accusing a senior official of seeking to boost Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen’s Facebook popularity by buying fake “likes”.
“The Appeal Court decides to uphold the Phnom Penh Municipal Court (PPMC)’s verdict against Sam Rainsy on November 8, 2016,” read the decision pronounced by Presiding Judge Samrith Sophal.
Sam Sokong, the defense lawyer for Rainsy, told reporters that the ruling was “unacceptable” for his client, so he would file an appeal to the Supreme Court against it.
On Nov. 8 last year, the PPMC found Rainsy guilty of defamation for alleging that ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP)’s website administrator Som Soeun sought to inflate Hun Sen’s Facebook popularity by buying “likes” originating in India and the Philippines, as well as advising CPP supporters and officials to create fake Facebook accounts to click “likes” for Hun Sen’s Facebook page.
The court ordered him to pay a fine of 2,500 U.S. dollars in addition to 3,750 U.S. dollars in compensation to Som Soeun.
The prime minister publicly denied that he bought “likes” on his Facebook page. Hun Sen launched his Facebook page in September 2015. Now, his page attracted over 6.84 million likes, while Rainsy’s page received only 3.66 million likes.
Rainsy, president of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, has been living in self-imposed exile in France since November 2015 to avoid a two-year prison sentence in a defamation case brought by Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong.
In December 2016, the PPMC also sentenced, in absentia, him to another five years in prison for conspiring to incite chaos in the country through posting fake documents on his Facebook page.
Rainsy is currently facing two other defamation lawsuits filed by Hun Sen and social media activist Thy Sovantha.