Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cost of ‘oknha’ title rises five-fold

Cost of ‘oknha’ title rises five-fold

Prime Minister Hun Sen, seen at an event on Thursday in Phnom Penh, recently signed a sub-decree raising the minimum donation required to be made an ‘oknha’. FACEBOOK
Prime Minister Hun Sen, seen at an event on Thursday in Phnom Penh, recently signed a sub-decree raising the minimum donation required to be made an ‘oknha’. Facebook

Cost of ‘oknha’ title rises five-fold

Prime Minister Hun Sen has issued a new sub-decree raising the minimum donation required to receive the honorific title “oknha” from $100,000 to $500,000.

The decree, dated March 20 and published by pro-government media outlet Fresh News on Saturday, sets out that for “generous people who donate cash or objects of a value of more than $500,000 to the state”, the government would request the King grant them the title, which roughly translates to “tycoon” and is often conferred on elites with ties to the ruling party.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan declined to comment on the sub-decree yesterday, saying he did not know about the amendment, except that it came from the Ministry of Finance and Economics. The latter could not be reached yesterday.

Association for Small and Medium Enterprises of Cambodia president Te Taing Por, an oknha since 2001, said there were about 700 oknhas now – compared to about five before 1975. He explained that, to receive the title, a request had to be approved by the Council of Ministers, then the prime minister and then signed by the King.

Mengly Quach, CEO of an eponymous university and school, received the title in 2009, and acknowledged that the old threshold of $100,000 in donations was too low today, requiring an increase. But he stressed that “the real generous people who want to help the country do not need to gain oknha titles in return”.

Policy analyst Sophal Ear yesterday agreed, saying that while “there’s no real list of benefits” that came with the title, “it’s pay to play”.

“[It’s] about access and reaching into networks,” he added.

Currently, he said in an email, there is no assessment for whether donated money went to good causes. Moreover, he said current oknhas were benefiting from the reassessment, since their “original investment of $100k is suddenly worth $500k tomorrow”.

San Chey, director of the NGO ANSA-Cambodia, said that the titles should be rewarded according to behaviour, and scrutinised by an evaluation committee. “If they have a bad reputation, they should not be granted the oknha title.”

Indeed, many oknhas have been implicated in scandals in recent years. One, Sok Bun, was caught on CCTV savagely beating a female TV personality in a restaurant. Another, Thong Sarath, is the suspected mastermind of the murder of fellow oknha and business rival Ung Meng Cheu.

Transparency International director Preap Kol said in an email that the “very prestigious” title had been increasingly monetised. “If someone enriches himself or herself from illegal, harmful, dirty or corrupt business, he or she can then afford to contribute $500,000 or more to get this title . . . this could make the wrong impression,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • US to ramp up sanctions after ‘flawed’ national polls

    At a press conference on Wednesday, the US State Department announced that it would expand visa sanctions on the Cambodian officials and individuals it deems responsible for “undermining democracy” in Cambodia. At the briefing, spokesperson Heather Nauert reiterated that the department regarded the July 29 elections

  • PM's Bodyguard commander hits back at US

    The commander of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Bodyguard Unit (BGU) Hing Bun Heang on Sunday dismissed a short video clip that went viral on social media in which he says he is preparing for a war with the United States over its aggressiveness towards

  • Final poll results confirm first single-party Assembly

    IN an unprecedented situation in Cambodian politics, the official results of the July 29 national elections have declared that the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) will take all 125 seats in the National Assembly on the back of it receiving 76 per cent of the votes. The National

  • Chinese influence to sweep Kingdom?

    Growing Cambodia-China ties have seen the latter’s influence sweep across the Kingdom through increased investments and tourism. The Asian giant has become the leading source of foreign funds in Cambodia, fuelling the construction sector with huge casino and hotel projects. Much of the growth