PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — For years, some Cambodian media have referred to the country’s longtime leader simply as Prime Minister Hun Sen. Authorities warned May 12 that has to stop.
Starting in August, all media must use his full, honorary, six-word title — “Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen” — in the opening lines of print articles, radio and TV stories about the leader.
The title translates roughly to “Lord Prime Minister and Supreme Military Commander” and was bestowed on Hun Sen by Cambodia’s King Norodom Sihamoni in 2007.
The Information Ministry held a nearly three-hour meeting for journalists May 12 to announce the new guidelines and warn that legal action will be taken against media that don’t comply.
Officials gave no specifics on the punishment for flouting the rule, which they said was important to show respect for leaders who hold Cambodia’s highest titles.
The new rule appeared aimed specifically at media viewed by the government as pro-opposition and pro-Western. Pro-government media typically refer to officials with their honorary titles.
It comes amid a series of moves by Hun Sen’s government to put legal pressure on its critics and political opponents.
During his three decades in power, Hun Sen has long exerted strong control over the media, and expressing public dissent in Cambodia remains risky. The government has tightened controls on telecommunications and threatens prosecution of online critics, especially those commenting on Hun Sen and his family.
“We want you to state the full title of leaders in the story’s lead or first sentence,” said Ouk Kimseng, an under-secretary of state at the Information Ministry, who led the meeting. Subsequent references can drop the long title, he said.
The ministry has issued similar warnings before, which were largely ignored.
The rule also applies to several ruling party officials.
Hun Sen’s wife Bun Rany was given a royal title in 2013, “Samdech Kittipritbandit Bun Rany Hun Sen,” which translates to “Celebrated Senior Scholar Bun Rany Hun Sen.” It refers to an honorary Ph.D. that was given to the first lady, who never formally graduated from university.