Cambodia's prime minister is Zoombombing opposition meetings

restofworld.org
6 min read
fairly difficult
When Cambodia's banned opposition party held a Zoom call on September 9, they hardly expected it to be personally infiltrated by the country's prime minister.…
When Cambodia's banned opposition party held a Zoom call on September 9, they hardly expected it to be personally infiltrated by the country's prime minister.

Appearing abruptly and interrupting a speaker, the uninvited guest, Prime Minister Hun Sen, chimed in to warn virtual attendees that their communications were being monitored.

"I have been listening, and have entered to listen many times already," the 69-year-old authoritarian leader said, on a video recording of the interaction that circulated widely on Facebook. For about 12 minutes, the prime minister lectured a senior member of the opposition, Long Ry. He wagged his finger as he demanded his rivals, who he had driven into exile, stop insulting him if they ever expected to be allowed to return home.

The events that followed were equally disorienting. A longtime spokesman for the ruling Cambodian People's Party, Senator Sok Eysan, initially attempted to explain that the clip was manipulated from old video footage. After Hun Sen publicly referred to the incident on Facebook—his favored platform—Eysan reversed course.

He said that the images were real, but that the opposition had recently spread misinformation to imply that the government was reaching out to them. "Tricks," he alleged, "to confuse … domestic and international views."

Later that week, Hun Sen revealed that he'd previously attended 20 online meetings held by the opposition.

"This entry was just to give a warning message to the rebel group to be aware that Hun Sen's people are everywhere," Hun Sen wrote on Facebook. "Please be careful, and don't do any activities against the national interest."

Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge soldier, has held a tight grip on the prime ministership of Cambodia for 36 years. While he has embraced social media, posting multiple times a day and engaging with commenters, his government has shown little hesitation in quashing any sign of dissent, last year detaining and interrogating at least 30 people over…
Bopha Phorn
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