Got a problem? Try Cambodia PM's ministry of Facebook

Unable to pay his way out of jail, Kong Chamroeun was remanded in a Cambodian prison pending trial for stealing $80 of company property, a crime his family said he did not commit.

Reuters| Updated: Mar 04, 2016, 11:05 AM IST

Phnom Penh: Unable to pay his way out of jail, Kong Chamroeun was remanded in a Cambodian prison pending trial for stealing $80 of company property, a crime his family said he did not commit.

"We had nothing, just empty hands," said his girlfriend, Lorn Chenda, who alleged police tried to extort Chamroeun for $2,000 in "compensation" in exchange for not pressing charges.

With Chamroeun, 28, behind bars for 10 days and no one else to turn to, Chenda used her smartphone to appeal directly to Cambodia`s highest authority - Prime Minister Hun Sen. She recorded a five-minute video detailing the alleged extortion attempt and urging the self-styled strongman to intervene, then posted it on his Facebook page.

The next morning, Chamroeun was freed and his case dismissed.

"We never expected the prime minister would help us," Chenda, 26, told Reuters.

"This is the smallest problem for the prime minister to have to solve himself, and it was solved very quickly."
Chamroeun`s release was fortuitously timed, coinciding with Hun Sen`s new infatuation with Facebook, which he adopted with gusto in September last year and now has two million followers.

Experts say he is using Facebook to quickly recoup some lost popularity ahead of a 2018 election tipped to be the biggest test to his three-decade rule.

Hun Sen`s strategy appears to be out of the playbook of bitter rival the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).

The opposition`s social media campaigns were a hit with young, urban voters in a disputed 2013 election that stunned Hun Sen`s ruling Cambodian People`s Party (CPP) and sharply reduced its house majority.