How Facebook became a hit in Cambodia
Disclaimer: This blog post is based on the writer’s opinion.
Before 2013 as far as I could remember, Facebook was only popular and used actively among young Cambodian people who know English. At one point, I heard “Facebook” in every conversations. Those who didn’t know English would go to school to learn, so that they could use Facebook; and some even learnt English by using that social medium. Even older people now have an account, and not just an account — they get online everyday and they always talk about it. They include: my elderly neighbors, my high school teachers, the Cambodian Prime Minister, and other ministers.
Before the election in 2013, Sam Rainsy, a leader of the opposition party who spent years in exile abroad, received the royal permission to enter Cambodia. Information about his return communicated on television and radio was little. However, he has a Facebook page and at the time, it was his channel. He posted everything about his trip, the royal permission, and propagandized his party through the page. He encouraged those who “like” his page to join him in non-violent demonstrations, and when they all gathered, he would take pride in having more Facebook fans than his counterpart. It sounds really funny, but all the things he did/said/propagandized would not appear in national television nor the radio, so Facebook was the only way. Plus, it was really popular among young people. Thus, his supporters who weren’t on Facebook created an account so that they could follow him and read news that weren’t talked about on TV. As a result, on the day of his arrival in Phnom Penh (the capital city of Cambodia), about 100,000 people went to see him at the airport making the roads really busy.
Other political activists also became active on Facebook, and shared their opinions there, mostly in video form. People watched TV when they wanted to hear pro-government opinions. Otherwise, they logged in to Facebook. I remember hearing my neighbors ask each other “Did you see [this] on Facebook?”, although everyone’s news feed is different. Also, because of this question, people know they need to get a Facebook account. Consequently, our Prime Minister also became active and his page has more regular posts than before. In addition, people really enjoy sharing videos, news, etc, so it’s important to be conscious about what to post.
Other than that, users are more chill on Facebook. They don’t only post about politics, but rather turn to it from a more social perspective, and therefore, Facebook is now a thing here.