PHNOM PENH —
Defense Minister Tea Banh has been granted the honorific title “Samdech”, joining a small number of officials in the upper echelons of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party who are deemed to have made significant contributions to the nation.
The title was bestowed upon Gen. Banh on July 29 by a royal decree signed by King Norodom Sihamoni, who left Cambodia for a medical check up in China on July 23.
The decree stated that Gen. Banh, whose official title is now Samdech Pichey Sena Tea Banh, was granted the honorific for contributions to “peace, stability, national unity, development of all sectors, protecting democracy, national defense, and good social stability.”
“General Tea Banh is the most outstanding leader, who is respected and loved by citizens and loyal to the throne,” it reads.
In a statement issued on the same day, Prime Minister Hun Sen congratulated Gen. Banh, calling him a “very capable and loyal operator”.
Before the commune elections in June, Gen. Banh said that he would “smash the teeth” of anyone who opposed the election results and warned that military force would be used against anyone attempting to overthrow Hun Sen’s regime.
Gen. Banh could not be reached for comment.
Moeun Tola, a labor rights worker, said the title itself would not improve Gen. Banh’s public image and was likely granted to ensure future loyalty to Hun Sen.
“Whoever criticizes or expresses their opinions will be abused or threatened or even killed. But those who speak in line with [the government] and defend them, he or she will be given motivation,” he said.
In 2015, CPP deputy presidents Say Chhum and Sar Kheng were granted the Samdech title, which roughly translates to “an outstanding leader with the love of the people”. Others who have held the title include the late former CPP president Chea Sim, National Assembly President Heng Samrin, Kong Sam Ol, Royal Palace minister, and Sok An, the late former head of the Council of Ministers.