Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defence Tea Banh has ordered all institutions under the ministry’s supervision to collect data of officials holding the honorific Oknha.
Speaking during the inauguration of a new military base in Sen Sok district on Tuesday, Banh said once the data had been compiled, the ministry would set a deadline for the officials to choose between the honorific and their position within the military framework.
“Let me make this clear – all the heads of each institution must collect the data more quickly. Be careful and do it as quickly as possible to ensure a speedy reform.
“Of course, I understand that some of those who hold the title have contributed a lot to national development, to such an extent that they are bestowed with the honorific Oknha.
“However, from now on, only one title can be kept. If you wish to maintain the honorific Oknha, you must forfeit your position in the military framework,” he said.
The ministry’s directive came after Prime Minister Hun Sen raised the issue during the ruling Cambodian People’s Party’s Central Committee meeting last month.
At the time Banh requested an ultimatum for officials with the two titles to decide to avoid upsetting them.
“We want to agree before making it official. If we just do it without any consultation, some of them could feel frustrated,” he said.
Senior national defence ministry officials said it had no specific figures for those with the two titles.
However, it said that in the framework of the General Command of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), 61 officials were holding the title Oknha.
Among them, 45 had decided to forfeit the title while 16 others chose to maintain it and agreed to resign from the military framework.
RCAF General Command spokesman Thong Solimo said he could not provide exact figures while a meeting with minister Banh was pending before a decision is made.
“We have already prepared data, there is no change. The 61 RCAF General Command officials will soon meet directly with Samdech Tea Banh,” he said.
Solimo said after the officials choose between the two titles, the government would request a Royal Decree terminating either one.
Official figures made available to the public said there were 704 Oknhas as of February 2014. A newly amended prakas states that one must make at least $500,000 in donations for national development before the honorific is bestowed through a Royal Decree.