Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday shelved the requirement made earlier in the year for media to refer to him by his official honorific title, which roughly translates to Lord Prime Minister and Supreme Military Commander.
Cambodia’s Information Ministry just days earlier had sent a final warning to media reporting on the country to use the title, which was bestowed on Hun Sen by King Norodom Sihamoni. It was not immediately clear what prompted the announcement.
Phay Siphan, a government spokesman, said if journalists wished to use the title in future they could, but the advice would not be enforced.
“He said if the journalists want to title him [Lord Prime Minister] they can do it. And if they don’t want to, then it’s their choice,” he said.
Information Minister Khieu Kanharith had on Thursday renewed calls for media to use Hun Sen’s full title – Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen – after initially warning in May that media outlets could face legal action if they did not comply.
Ouk Kimseng, an undersecretary of state at the Information Ministry, said that the ministry would implement Hun Sen’s orders.
“The order came after the final warning of the Ministry of Information, but still the ministry will follow what has been decided by [the prime minister] to cancel the order,” he said.
Journalists had complained that the order was impractical to carry out.
Pen Bonar, president of the Club of Cambodian Journalists, welcomed the decision.
“It might be not be PM Hun Sen who wants the full title; sometimes, it’s his officials who want journalists to address him that way. So when the PM found out, he decided to cancel it.”
Ky Soklim, COE of the popular Thmey Thmey newspaper, also welcomed the U-turn.
“If he really allows us to do that, then I will discuss with my team to remove ‘Samdach’ from our writing.”
Pa Nguon Teang of the Cambodian Center for Independent Media said it was a positive step, but said the “mess up” had caused confusion among local media outlets.
“Flip-flopping can reflect poor management of the government,” he said.