Prime Minister Hun Sen said Friday he could block access to Facebook in Cambodia, after the company said it would remove a video in which he threatened to beat up political opponents.
The warning came ahead of a July 23 election that has been widely dubbed a sham after authorities denied registration to the chief challenger to Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party.
Facebook announced Thursday it would remove one of Hun Sen's videos in line with a ruling by the Oversight Board for Meta, Facebook's parent company, which also recommended his account be suspended.
The ruling said his speech contained "unequivocal statements of intent to commit violence" against opposition politicians.
Long a prolific Facebook user, Hun Sen announced Thursday night he had stopped using the platform and appeared to have deleted his account.
Speaking to garment workers in Pursat province on Friday, Hun Sen warned that he could block Facebook "for a short period or forever" in Cambodia at any time to prevent exiled opposition politicians from communicating with people in the country.
"Don't be arrogant, you guys are staying overseas, you are using Facebook for communications, we could block Facebook," he said, appearing to address exiled opponents.
He then urged Cambodians to download other social media platforms, including Telegram, TikTok, Line, Viber and Meta-owned WhatsApp.
Hun Sen also accused Facebook of turning a blind eye to "insulting" remarks he claimed rivals had made against his wife and eldest son Hun Manet, who is widely seen as being groomed to take over the country's leadership in the future.
The Oversight Board, whose decisions are binding, on Thursday recommended Hun Sen's Facebook and Instagram accounts be suspended for six months due to the video filmed in January, in which he told opponents they would face legal action or a beating with sticks if they accused his party of vote theft in July's national polls.
Hours later, Meta said it would comply with the decision to remove the video.
"We will conduct a review of all the recommendations provided by the board in addition to its decision, and respond to the board's recommendation on suspending Prime Minister Hun Sen's accounts as soon as we have undertaken that analysis," it said in a statement.
After 38 years in power, Hun Sen is among the world's longest-serving leaders.
Hun Sen's Facebook page was launched in 2015 after his opponents, particularly exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy, used the platform to successfully reach younger voters.
The Cambodian premier now uses the Telegram app to relay his political messages to supporters, and TikTok to engage with youth.
On Thursday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the saga was a "face-off between Big Tech and a dictator over human rights issues" that was "long overdue".
© Agence France-Presse
Your content is great. However, if any of the content contained herein violates any rights of yours, including those of copyright, please contact us immediately by e-mail at media[@]kissrpr.com.