World Bulletin / News Desk
After ordering the media to use the title earlier this year, Hun Sen’s government had issued several warnings to those organizations that were slow to adopt it -- largely independent newspapers, radio stations and websites as well as the country’s English-language media.
The country’s ministry of information set a July 1 deadline for the adoption of the title, and warned repeatedly that those who flouted the rule would face penalties that could include losing their licenses.
Most recently, the ministry issued a statement Thursday informing holdouts that this was their last chance to begin using “samdech” before facing reprisals.
“Some small media outlets and reporters still show aggression in practicing the opposite of what the ministry has told them to do, as well as providing commentary that is contrary to reality in order to create a poisonous social atmosphere, affecting the dignity of the leaders of the nation and cultural traditions,” the statement said, according to The Cambodia Daily.
However, on Friday the premier unexpectedly relaxed the requirement without explaining why.
Hun Sen made the announcement at a weekly cabinet meeting in Phnom Penh, according to government spokesman Phay Siphan.
“He overruled what [was] requested by the minister of information,” Phay Siphan told Anadolu Agency. “He didn't say why, he just said it is the media’s choice, whatever they would like to call him, and whoever would like to call him ‘samdech’ just go ahead.”
The announcement came just one day after London-based advocacy group Global Witness released an extensive report on the vast business interests of the prime minister and his family.
Only the prime minister, his wife, and a few other highly placed ruling party officials bear the “samdech” title, which is considered highly prestigious for that reason.
Hun Sen’s full courtesy title, by which he is referred to by many Cambodian-language media organizations, is Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen, which translates roughly as “Illustrious Lord, Great Supreme Protector and Famed Warrior Hun Sen”.