The United States Military Academy, commonly known as West Point, has clarified the education received by Hun Manet – something opposition figure Sam Rainsy had dismissed as a “second-class degree” made easier to obtain for special applicants.
Manet, son of Prime Minister Hun Sen, is the Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) and the commander of the army’s infantry.
“Lieutenant General Hun Manet, the commander of the Royal Cambodian Army, graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in May 1999.
“He received a Bachelor of Science degree, majoring in Economics,” Christopher Ophardt, the director of Public Affairs and Communications at West Point, said on Friday.
Ophardt said that according to the publicly available 2015 Register of Graduates and Former Cadets, three Cambodians have graduated from West Point – Manet in 1999, Sithyka Meach in 2011 and Sovisal Jerry Meach in 2014, all with Bachelor of Science degrees.
He said a US State Department and Department of Defence initiative permitted a maximum of 60 international students from eligible countries to fully assimilate into the Corps of Cadets over four years after earning a Bachelor of Science degree and completing military training identical to that of their American counterparts.
The application procedure for international candidates is essentially the same as that for US citizens, Ophardt said. The assessment of an international candidate’s admission was based on his academic background, leadership attributes, physical aptitude and fitness.
The clarification comes after Rainsy, the “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party, claimed late last month that Manet had received a “second-class degree” issued for only foreign students.
“It is a second-class degree and was given for diplomatic reasons as the US wanted to build good relations. They give this to the sons of foreign prime ministers and presidents to show off in their home countries,” Rainsy told supporters in the US.
Rainsy stood by his claim, saying that in the US and Europe such diplomas were “reserved for foreign students with weaker intellectual backgrounds but interesting political connections. Such practices are a fact nobody can deny”.
Manet could not be reached by The Post for comment on Sunday, but last week, he called on Rainsy to accept a bet on the validity of his degree.
However, Rainsy dared not accept the wager, claiming that to do so would be childish.
Sithyka Meach, one of the two other Cambodians to graduate from West Point along with her brother Sovisal Jerry Meach, said on Facebook last week that the military academy did not issue honorary or “second-class” degrees as Rainsy had claimed.
“My brother and I had made huge efforts for four years to meet the requirements and get a degree with the same value as the other cadets.
“[Rainsy] looks down on Cambodians when [he] says we cannot graduate to the same level and can only get degrees of a lesser standard to people of other nationalities.
“It is truly offensive to hear those words, and even more offensive to think that they were being used to validate his policies. He should focus on social issues instead of spreading lies. Shame!” she said.
Sok Touch, the president of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said there was no point in wasting time responding to Rainsy’s claims.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said politicians should not concern themselves or anyone else with the education of others. He said Mongol leader Genghis Khan, who conquered almost all of Eurasia, from China to the gates of Vienna, was illiterate.