Hun Manet, designated as the future prime ministerial candidate for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), urged the authorities to take legal action against anyone who used his name to commit illegal acts.

Manet, currently a four-star General and deputy commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), made the remarks as he represented Prime Minister Hun Sen at a March 26 groundbreaking ceremony for new roads in Tbong Khmum province.

“Whosoever uses my name or a perceived connection to me to do wrong – if I am made aware of the offence, legal action will ensue, with no exceptions,” he warned.

Manet said some people had used their photos taken with him to disguise themselves as his personal assistants, or representatives, to commit wrongdoing, the most recent case of which was land grab. The General called on people to be aware of such a ploy, explaining that he has been photographed with thousands of people at many different functions over the years.

“If I become aware of these attempts, I will sue. Even if the authorities withdraw a complaint, the offenders will still have to face the court as it is a criminal case,” he said.

Am Sam Ath, deputy director of rights group LICADHO, supported the remarks, saying that Manet apparently aimed to eradicate the culture of people using the names of dignitaries or the Kingdom’s leadership for their own personal benefit.

“There have been cases of this kind of behaviour reported over the years. Using the name of a well-known or well-connected public figure can have a detrimental effect on that person’s reputation and honour,” he said.

He said this culture needs to be erased, suggesting that the authorities pursue all cases equally regardless of who is implicated. “This way, no one would fear the name of anyone else, whether high-ranking or otherwise.”

Meas Ny, a social development researcher, said the use of the names of people who were perceived as powerful was commonplace in some controversial disputes.

“In particular, some people seem to think they can use the names of members of the prime minister’s family to intimidate people.

“Tough measures should be taken, otherwise ill-intentioned people will damage the names of high-ranking officials and dignitaries, or even tarnish the reputation of the prime minister’s family,” he said.

He said he had often heard that certain businesspeople used the names of high-ranking officials to conduct their personal business, as they believed that local authorities would be afraid to investigate them.

He echoed Sam Ath’s view, saying the best way to avoid this is for the authorities to enforce the law equally.