Leading government officials congratulated Prime Minister Hun Sen Wednesday on receiving an honorary professorship as well as two new titles from an obscure organization in Sicily.
In broad, full-color advertisements filling the pages of the largest Khmer-language newspapers, officials including Tourism Minister Thong Khon, Labor Minister Vong Soth and Planning Minister Chhay Than congratulated the premier on becoming “Life Senator” at the International Parliament for Safety and Peace, which also on Monday named him “Ambassador at Large to the World Presidency.”
A separate award bestowed Monday by Costa Rica’s Universidad Empresarial, a university in the capital San Jose, also makes Hun Sen “Honorable Professor of Diplomatic and International Relations.”
The announcements added to other honorary distinctions awarded to the premier, including a 1996 honoris causa doctorate from Iowa Wesleyan College in the US and a 2004 honorary doctorate from the controversial Irish International University.
According to its Web site, the IPSP, now based in Palermo, Sicily, was created in 1975 in Cyprus by Greek Orthodox clergymen and government officials “for the defense of all the towns of the world” and “the norm of the right public and international and private laws.”
IPSP’s current vice president is Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and others it has honored include former Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev, former South African President Nelson Mandela and the late Congolese dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.
Universidad Empresarial’s Web site says it offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in areas such as business administration, biology and cognitive science.
SRP leader Sam Rainsy said the public could mistakenly believe the premier’s growing assortment of far-flung tributes represents genuine academic achievements.
“Those who boast these titles, I think they look down on the people because they think that the people are not able to assess the real value of these titles, diplomas, honors and prizes, etc.” he said.
Government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said no one is being misled.
“Maybe Sam Rainsy doesn’t understand the word ‘honorary,’” Khieu Kanharith said.
“It’s something to create awareness and friendship among south-south countries. It’s not a Nobel,” he added.