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Cambodian opposition chief found guilty over Facebook claim

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — A Cambodian court on Tuesday found the country’s exiled opposition leader guilty of defamation for alleging that a senior government official sought to inflate Prime Minister Hun Sen’s online popularity by buying ‘‘likes’’ for his
Facebook page.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court found Sam Rainsy, president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, guilty and ordered him to pay a fine of $2,500 in addition to $3,750 in compensation to Sam Soeun, a senior official assigned to oversee Hun Sen’s Facebook page.

Hun Sen has a very active online presence, and his opponents likewise use the internet to mobilize supporters. The rivalry between Hun Sen and Sam Rainsy evolved into a
‘‘Facebook war,’’ with each seeking to claim a greater number of ‘‘likes.’’

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At the height of their battling in March, the Phnom Penh Post published its finding that most of Hun Sen’s ‘‘likes’’ originated from abroad, raising suspicions about their legitimacy. Currently, Hun Sen’s page has 6.1 million ‘‘likes,’’ and Sam Rainsy’s has 3.3 million.

Associated Press