Defence Ministry monitoring Facebook for feedback

Military police stand in formation to listen to speeches from their leaders in Phnom Penh in September 2017. CamPost

Kong Meta and Daphne Chen | The Phnom Penh Post
Publication date 14 February 2018 | 19:24 ICT

The Ministry of Defence said yesterday that it had resolved nearly 140 complaints about the military that were raised last year by Facebook users.

Officials found the complaints by monitoring the Facebook pages of the ministry and Prime Minister Hun Sen, who authorized the new initiative, ministry spokesman Chum Socheat said.

“If it’s an issue we can solve, we will deal with it,” Socheat said. “Issues we cannot deal with we transfer to the competent authority.”

According to Socheat, most of the complaints were related to salary, promotions and land disputes. Four cases accusing soldiers of grabbing land from villagers in the provinces of Preah Sihanouk, Siem Reap and Battambang were forwarded to the courts and remain unresolved, he said.

Socheat also warned social media users not to spread “fake news” that might cause “chaos, confusion, incitement or to cause the separation of the nation.”

Human rights groups have raised a number of concerns about the government’s monitoring of social media, citing legal action taken against a number of people for expressing their opinions online.

Last August, the former Khmer Power Party leader Sourn Serey Ratha was sentenced to five years in prison over Facebook posts critical of military leadership.

Lawmakers are also working on a law that would punish social media users for “attacking public figures illegally without evidence” and fomenting colour revolution, a ruling party lawmaker said Tuesday.

Sok Sam Oeun, who represented Serey Ratha, said the ministry’s initiative might have a chilling effect on freedom of expression.

“Based on Sourn Serey Ratha’s case, people must be very careful when they post something critical,” Sam Oeun said. “It’s very scary.”

However, Socheat claimed Serey Ratha’s case was merely “political.”

“This is about the people raising their difficulties so we solved it for them,” he said. “Sourn Serey Ratha accused us and defamed us, it is a different issue.”

Socheat added that another group was in charge of investigating critical social media posts about the armed forces. “We have not had a meeting with this group yet,” he said.

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