More than two-thirds of senior officials at the General Command Headquarters of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) have decided to relinquish their oknha titles to maintain their roles in the armed forces, an RCAF official said.
Of 61 senior officials, 45 relinquished their title of oknha, while 16 decided to retain it at the expense of their jobs in the military.
The need to choose between the two came from an order issued by Prime Minister Hun Sen at a meeting of the Cambodian People’s Party central committee last month.
On August 23, Hun Sen confirmed the order on Facebook: “[The government] will not allow armed forces officials, such as soldiers, police and Military Police, to have the title oknha any more. In the past, some of them took the two titles to commit illegal acts.”
RCAF General Command spokesman Thong Solimo told The Post on Sunday that after the announcement, 61 unnamed officials who held the oknha title along with a position in the General Command of the RCAF – including the navy, army, air force and Military Police – were forced to choose between their titles.
He said the figures did not include officials at the Ministry of National Defence, and that the figures would be sent to Minister of National Defence Tea Banh for the final verdict on their titles.
Banh, who is also deputy prime minister, told The Post on Sunday that the oknha title was granted to officials in the RCAF following them making a monetary donation to the state.
He said there was no specific figure available for the number of officials currently serving in the RCAF who had obtained the oknha title. But according to previously released figures, between 1994 and 2014 Cambodia granted the title of oknha to 704 individuals.
To receive the title, the law states that an individual must donate more than $500,000 to the state, with King Norodom Sihamoni then granting them the title.
San Chey, the Executive Director of Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, said the measure was intended to prevent damage to the government’s image when RCAF officials with the title abuse their power or commit offences.
However, he said it would take more than stripping them of their title to end illegal practices.
Only monitoring and proper law enforcement can lead to powerful officials not abusing their positions. The important thing is that the authorities or courts must not be afraid of holding those in such position [oknha] accountable,” he said.