Seventy-five military officials voluntarily relinquished their oknha titles to remain in the armed forces, while another 24 people chose to abandon their posts in favour of the honorific title, Minister of National Defence Tea Banh told The Post.
The decisions were made after Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered Military Police, police and armed forces officials on August 22 to choose between the title and their jobs.
Tea Banh, who is also deputy prime minister, said Hun Sen had forwarded the requests to the acting head of state Say Chhum for approval.
A copy of the request obtained by The Post on Tuesday said: “As per the request of the deputy prime minister and minister of national defence on September 9 for the end of oknha titles for Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) officials, on behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia, I [Hun Sen] seek approval to rescind oknha titles for 75 officials of the RCAF.”
Oknha who renounced their titles ranged from generals to lieutenant colonels.
They include Ministry of National Defence secretary of state General Neang Phat; deputy commander-in-chief General Uy Sarin; the director-general of the General Department of Technical Equipment General Chao Phirun; and ministry under secretaries of state, generals Khun Vuth and Chao Phally.
There were some 704 oknha conferred between 1994 and February 2014, according to official figures. The title is bestowed upon individuals who make humanitarian contributions valued at more than $500,000.
Kin Phea, the director of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said the reforms will reduce instances of conflicts of interests.
He said: “The changes make our armed forces more trustworthy because when officials have the oknha title next to their military rank, the public begins to believe that they are leveraging their positions in the armed forces for financial gain.”
Adhoc spokesman Soeng Sen Karuna said: “Many officials hold positions in important institutions, including oknha. The government should audit such cases beyond the armed forces.
“We want [the government] to ensure that officials with oknha titles from other institutions serve social and national interests. Instead, they run illegal businesses or look out for their welfare,” he alleged.
Banh dismissed the accusations, saying that only a small number of officials who held the oknha title had caused problems in society.
“Most of them contributed to building the nation as humanitarians and earned their oknha titles. There may be one or two officials within the ranks but it is uncommon for officials to abuse their ranks and positions.
“These accusations are baseless. The reform was made because the government wanted to avoid military officials from holding too many titles,” Banh said.