Cost of gaining ‘Oknha’ title soars

Cheang Sokha / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Oknha Hong Peav, left, donated $1 million to the Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital founded by Dr. Beat Richner. Supplied

Anyone hoping to be bestowed with the title of “Oknha” must now contribute at least $500,000 to the government, five times more than was previously required, Prime Minister Hun Sen has ruled.
 
The new sub-decree signed on March 20 replaces an earlier one from April 1994, which said wealthy benefactors who gave at least $100,000 to the government and directed their money into initiatives to help society would receive a first class Sathapana Cheat medal from the king and the royally-bestowed title of Oknha.
 
Now the government will only ask the king to give the Oknha title to individuals who contribute $500,000 or more.
 
There are three levels of Oknha – Lork Oknha refers to the richest, followed by Neak Oknha and Oknha.
 
Government secretary-general Soy Sokha could not provide the exact figures on the number of business tycoons who are Oknha as of press time yesterday.
 
However, he told Khmer Times the increase in the amount of cash needed to secure the title will help develop the country.
 
“The more money we have, the more we are able to develop,” he said. “Our development will never stop.”
 
A government official who asked not to be named said there are now nearly 1,000 Oknha in Cambodia.
 
San Chey, the country director of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, urged the government to check the credentials of people requesting the title of Oknha, as many have been found to abuse their power to mistreat people.
 
“These people should uphold certain moral values and be a good role model for the younger generation. Some Oknha don’t hold such values and go on shooting sprees, beat up women or hurt others,” Mr. Chey said.
 
He said the government should investigate applicants and their business background before giving them the title, warning Oknha had too often been involved in social problems such as land disputes with villagers.
 
“The title must not only be about giving money,” he said. “There are some good Oknha out there, but unfortunately there are some bad ones too.”

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