Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Gov’t Bans Meta’s Oversight Board From Country After It Recommended Suspending PM’s Facebook

Prime Minister Hun Sen's since-deleted Facebook account. (Fresh News)
Prime Minister Hun Sen's since-deleted Facebook account. (Fresh News)

The Cambodian government banned all 22 members of Meta’s Oversight Board from entering the country in a statement released by the Foreign Affairs Ministry on Tuesday. 

The government declared that the Oversight Board’s recommendation to suspend Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Facebook account was “political in nature.” 

The Oversight Board’s members were branded “persona non grata” and “barred from entering or remaining in the Kingdom of Cambodia.” 

The Oversight Board’s members — none of whom appear to be based in Cambodia — include Unesco’s Chair on Freedom of Expression, a Nobel Peace Prize winner from Yemen and the former prime minister of Denmark. 

On June 29, the Oversight Board had ordered Meta to remove a January speech live streamed on Hun Sen’s Facebook page in which he called for his political opponents to be beaten. The Oversight Board also recommended a six-month suspension of Hun Sen’s Facebook account.

That same night, Hun Sen announced he would delete his Facebook account. He threatened to shut down the entire platform in Cambodia but soon decided against it.

The next day, the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications issued a letter stating the Cambodian government would cut ties with Facebook, expel its representatives and end the company’s private sector-partnerships. However, the government later clarified it would not end private partnerships.

“If Meta’s platforms are being exploited to amplify threats and resulting intimidation, Meta has a responsibility to take action and prevent this,” said Stefania Di Stefano, a project officer with the Geneva Human Rights Platform.

Hun Sen has since switched over to using Telegram to issue statements. 

Government spokesperson Phay Siphan declined to comment, saying he was in the provinces and had not yet seen the statement.

Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson An Sokkhoeurn could not be reached for comment.

Meta, Facebook and the Oversight Board did not yet respond to requests for comment.