Prime Minister Hun Sen has been bestowed with the honorary title ‘Patron of the World Fellowship of Buddhists’ by the Thailand-based World Fellowship of Buddhists (WFB), while his son Hun Manet has been honoured with the title of senior adviser to the international organisation.

A ceremony to bestow the titles was held on the morning of May 2 at the capital’s historic site of Wat Phnom.

A statement read at the ceremony by WFB president Phallop Thaiarry said the honorary title was granted to the premier for his “life-time devotion” to peace and his "strict adherence" to Buddha’s teaching in leading and developing Cambodia, with his win-win policy serving as a testament.

General Manet -- a prime ministerial candidate for the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) and currently deputy commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) -- was named a senior adviser due to his "outstanding" work as chairman of the Voluntary Youth Doctor Association (TYDA).

“The members of the board of the world fellowship represent 55 countries of Buddhist determination. We admire the work of [Manet], more specifically his dedication to civic education in the field of Buddhist morality and ethics, his devotion to maintaining peace and prosperity and saving the lives of the people during the Covid-19 pandemic by mobilising medical professionals and delivering free healthcare to the people of Cambodia,” read the statement.

“We also recognise him for providing thousands of scholarship opportunities to Cambodian youths to study at universities across the country. This is a remarkable social contribution,” it added.

Hun Manet is honoured with the title of senior advisor at the World Fellowship of Buddhists at the ceremony held at Wat Phnom on May 2. SPM

During the ceremony, Hun Sen was also bestowed with an honorary doctoral degree in humanities from Indonesia's State University of Padang.

“Hun Sen dedicated his entire life to liberating the people of Cambodia from the dark ages of 1975-79, achieving peace and national reconciliation, securing transformative growth and continued development, and putting Cambodia back on the global stage,” said the statement.

It added that Hun Sen had strengthened good governance through reforms which had driven democratic development and the rule of law.

“His reforms focused on providing socio-economic value, while providing equal opportunities to all Cambodians, local and abroad,” it said.

The prime minister thanked the two institutions for honouring him with the titles.

“The bestowing of the title ‘Patron’ and the honorary doctoral are an honour for me, and all Cambodians. They demonstrate the priceless links between Buddhism, peace, development and harmonious co-existence of all human beings,” he said.

“I can say simply that these honours are the result of heeding the advice of the Buddha. His wisdom is practised by the people of Cambodia, and steers all aspects of the Kingdom’s social, cultural, political and economic dealings,” he added.

He said that as a Buddhist, he has learned that the Buddha’s teachings are the foundation of a realist philosophy which values non-violence, mercy, respect, love and compassion.

The prime minister also shared some personal recommendations. He encouraged more initiatives to link Buddhist populations around the world and promote the education and publication of Buddhist teachings. Think-tanks, Buddhist institutes or universities could include those teachings in their educational programmes and research.

“We must drive closer cooperation between Buddhist countries, both in the Mekong region and around the world, to drive the Buddhist vision of justice, unity, mutual respect and the harmonious co-existence of all mankind,” he said.

He also called for all Buddhist associations around the world to work closely with governments and civil society organisation to end wars and all form of violence.

“Although we designated Buddhism as the state religion, we have also harmonised with the many ethnicities and religions that are present in Cambodia, such as Islam and Christianity, this is one of the Kingdom’s strongest points, and one which we intend to maintain,” he said.