A draft royal decree and the preparation of legal documents to manage the honorific title “oknha” could be completed by 2022. Some oknhas expressed their support for the draft, saying it would restore value to the title, following wrongdoing by a few okhnas who had misused their titles.
While presiding over a ceremony with the leaders of the Samdech Techo Foundation for the Development of Small and Medium Enterprises on February 10, Minister of Interior Sar Kheng said he was leading preparation of the draft royal decree.
He added that while the documents are drafted, discussions will be held between government representatives and the Cambodia Oknha Association.
“While drafting this decree, we hope to prepare a precise definition of when the title is to be offered, the obligations of those who hold it and the conditions whereby the title could be stripped from a holder.
“Once the royal decree is announced, the oknha association is prepared to act according to its contents,” he said.
Oknha Mengly J Quach, the chairman and CEO of MJQ Education, told The Post on February 13 that in some countries, some honours and titles were bestowed to people who had contributed to society. Such titles provided recognition for public service, he said.
However, some countries bestow titles along partisan lines or thanks to cash donations which undermines the value of such titles, he added.
“I think this re-drafting should be considered because some oknha have used their titles in the past to protect themselves from the consequences of committing immoral acts, which create discontent among the public.
“We know that some oknhas have committed violence, or had crooked business dealings. Some have even been involved in deforestation. The actions of those who hold this title affects the honour of the King who bestows it,” he said.
He hoped that when the draft royal decree comes into force, it will help raise the profile of the real oknha.
Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) vice-president Lim Heng supported the drafting of the royal decree, saying: “There are good and bad people and oknhas are no different.
“Most of the oknhas are good people because they do not receive a salary from the government – they only support society. In my view, the more okhnas there are, the better it is for development of our society. We must have a code of ethics for them, of course,” he added.
He continued that the title does not refer to the rich, but to those who have helped society with their knowledge, skills or budget.
An inter-ministerial working group was established by the government in April 2021 to begin the preparation of documents that would manage the titles, bestowing them or removing them as required.