Australian Media Cite Hun Sen Facebook Page on Refugee Deal

A post on a Facebook page that Prime Minister Hun Sen has denied is his own was cited Tuesday by both the Sydney Morning Herald and Australia’s national broadcaster as having officially announced the Cambodian government’s agreement to resettle asylum seekers held by Australia.

Mr. Hun Sen has since last year denied any connection to the “Samdech Hun Sen, Cambodian Prime Minister” page on Facebook, which had received more than 265,000 “likes” as of last night, and has publicly asked “all teenagers” on the social networking website not to believe any claims otherwise.

Mr. Hun Sen’s initial denial came in June, only days after opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who now has more than 563,000 “likes,” celebrated passing the prime minister in popularity on Facebook.

“You won by running alone. I do not even have any Facebook,” Mr. Hun Sen said in a speech at the time.

In online articles, however, the Sydney Morning Herald and Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) both quoted Mr. Hun Sen, using translations of a post published in Khmer on the Hun Sen page on Monday evening.

“Cambodia has decided to accept genuine refugees to be resettled in Australia,” Mr. Hun Sen is quoted as saying in the article on the ABC website.

“Cambodia will sign a memorandum of understanding with Australia in order to help the refugees, who are already interviewed, in the near future,” he is quoted as saying by the Sydney Morning Herald article.

On Sunday, Ouch Borith, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told ABC radio that a special committee created to study the Australian government’s proposal to send refugees to Cambodia had concluded its work.

Mr. Borith told the station he hoped an agreement would soon follow.

Mr. Hun Sen is currently in China for a regional conference and is due back Sunday. A number of officials in his cabinet could not be reached Tuesday.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan, who is one of the many people who have “liked” the Hun Sen page, said by telephone Tuesday that Mr. Hun Sen was in fact still without a presence on the social networking site.

“On this case, I heard from Samdech Hun Sen that he does not have any Facebook at all,” he said, adding he was also unaware he had “liked” the page. “I have no idea because I have a number of assistants who manage that page.”

Tith Sothea, spokesman for the Press and Quick Reaction Unit, also confirmed that Mr. Hun Sen has not taken ownership of the page in his name.

“Up to this hour, Samdech has no personal Facebook page,” he said.

The Hun Sen page on Facebook, which is regularly updated with news about the prime minister and photographs of his activities, has also been “liked” by Mr. Hun Sen’s sister, Hun Sinath, and the prime minister’s son, Hun Manith.

Mr. Manith on Saturday night shared a post about national development under Mr. Hun Sen’s reign, posted to the Hun Sen Facebook page on Friday.

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