A senior military official said on Sunday that the Ministry of National Defence had found almost 100 military personnel with the title “oknha”.
He told The Post that the ministry was preparing procedural formalities to enable the oknha to choose between keeping the honorific or remaining within the military framework.
Ministry spokesperson Chhum Socheat told The Post on Sunday that it had identified a total of 99 oknha holding military positions.
Of those, 61 were under the General Command of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), with the remaining 38 under the Ministry of National Defence.
“We are preparing further procedures for those who want to leave their positions in the RCAF and those who want to continue serving in the military.
“The process requires more procedures and legal standards. We will allow those who want to leave to go because they are not allowed to hold two positions,” he said.
Socheat said that once the oknha had decided whether to remain in the military or keep their titles, the Ministry of National Defence would submit confirmation to the head of the government so royal decrees could be issued to discard their titles or remove them from the military.
RCAF General Command spokesman Thong Solimo declined to provide details of how many oknha planned to abandon their titles and how many had chosen to remain in the military framework.
He said he could not speak in detail about the issue while procedures were ongoing.
Kin Phea, the director-general of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said not allowing people with the title oknha to serve in the military was an order made by Prime Minister Hun Sen.
He said it was part of the reform of the RCAF and would help clear up suspicions among the public that oknha use their positions in the armed forces to protect their business and personal interests.
“Preventing oknha from holding positions in the armed forces cleans up the military’s reputation and benefits the RCAF by ensuring they recruit genuine forces,” Phea said.
But Socheat denied the allegations, saying that oknha did not cause any harm to society but instead assisted in the nation’s development by donating funds and providing resources to help people suffering hardship.
On August 22, at a Central Committee meeting of the Cambodian People’s Party held at the capital’s Koh Pich Convention and Exhibition Centre, Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered military personnel and members of the police who are oknha to choose between serving in the military and keeping their title.
According to previously released figures, between 1994 and 2014 Cambodia granted the title of oknha to 704 individuals.
A newly amended prakas states that a donation must be made for national development of at least $500,000 before the honorific is bestowed through a royal decree.