Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ezecom CEO made ‘oknha’

Ezecom CEO made ‘oknha’

Ezecom CEO made ‘oknha’

Paul Blanche-Horgan, the CEO of internet service provider Ezecom, will now be known as Oknha Paul Blanche-Horgan, making him one of the few Westerners to receive the prestigious and sought-after Cambodian title.

Awarded by King Norodom Sihanomi in mid-November, the new status brings Blanche-Horgan, who has lived in Cambodia for more than a decade, into the company of some of Cambodia’s most powerful tycoons and politically connected personalities.

He confirmed his appointment in an interview on Saturday, and said that it happened three weeks ago.

There are more than 200 oknhas in Cambodia. Specifics on why the honorific, which dates back centuries, is passed out to a given individual are largely shrouded in mystery.

But the lucky recipients are usually wealthy men and women who steer contributions to the government and charity projects.

Analysts have also said a $100,000-plus infrastructure donation is part of the process.

“I do quite a lot of things for charity anyway, but I would increase that hopefully. I got some plans on that,” Blanche-Horgan said when asked how he would use his newly elevated status.

Blanche-Horgan came to Cambodia as the country manager for Australian telecommunications company Telstra, and started Ezecom, now Cambodia’s largest internet service provider, six years ago.

Fellow oknha Mong Reththy said that while he couldn’t comment on Blanche-Horgan’s appointment, “I think to be able to become an oknha, someone must have contributed a lot to society”.

“There are many oknhas at the moment. Some exploit the title, but being an oknha, one must be a kind and good person who keeps giving back to society.

“I am not sure how other oknhas get the title, but for me, I use my own money to help … like building schools, hospitals and roads, etc. The government saw my contribution, so they ask the King to appoint me as an oknha.”

Blanche-Horgan is one of a handful of elite Westermers (he’s originally from England) who have the title, which wasn’t even given out to French officials during the colonial period, according to Cambodia historian David Chandler.

But as Blanche-Horgan stressed, he doesn’t really qualify as a foreigner any more. The government awarded him Cambodian citizenship earlier this year.

“It is nice to receive something for the 16 years I have been here.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHAN MUY HONG

MOST VIEWED

  • NY sisters inspired by Khmer heritage

    Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Cambodian-American sisters Edo and Eyen Chorm have always felt a deep affinity for their Cambodian heritage and roots. When the pair launched their own EdoEyen namesake jewellery brand in June, 2020, they leaned heavily into designs inspired by ancient Khmer

  • Cambodia records first Omicron community case

    The Ministry of Health on January 9 reported 30 new Covid-19 cases, 29 of which were imported and all were confirmed to be the Omicron variant. The ministry also reported 11 recoveries and no new deaths. Earlier on January 9, the ministry also announced that it had detected the Kingdom's

  • The effects of the USD interest rate hike on Cambodian economy

    Experts weigh in on the effect of a potential interest rate expansion by the US Federal Reserve on a highly dollarised Cambodia Anticipation of the US Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike in March is putting developing economies on edge, a recent blog post by

  • PM eyes Myanmar peace troika

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has suggested that ASEAN member states establish a tripartite committee or diplomatic troika consisting of representatives from Cambodia, Brunei and Indonesia that would be tasked with mediating a ceasefire in Myanmar. The premier also requested that Nippon Foundation chairman Yohei Sasakawa

  • Kampot tourism quay ‘90% done’

    Construction on Kampot International Tourism Port – a 4ha quay in Teuk Chhou district about 6km west of Kampot town – has fallen off track, reaching 90 per cent completion, according to a senior Ministry of Tourism official last week. The project is now planned to be finished

  • Demining rat ‘hero’ Magawa dead at 8

    A landmine-hunting rat that was awarded a gold medal for heroism for clearing ordnance from the Cambodian countryside has died, his charity said on January 11. Magawa, a giant African pouched rat originally from Tanzania, helped clear mines from about 225,000sqm of land – the equivalent of 42