The prestigious Korea University awarded Prime Minister Hun Sen his 11th honorary doctorate degree last week, in a ceremony during which the premier’s wife was also honored.
In a speech at the ceremony in Seoul, the university’s president, Ki-Su Lee, said that the degree was bestowed on Mr Sen for “courage, wisdom and determination.”
Mr Sen’s ceremonial degree is in politics, while the degree for his wife, Bun Rany, is in economics.
Kim Sang-hoon, deputy chief of mission for the South Korean embassy in Phnom Penh, described Korea University as “very famous,” when contacted by telephone Tuesday evening, and pointed out that Korea’s President Lee Myung-bak graduated from the school.
In a copy of his acceptance speech, which is posted on his website, the prime minister said, “Through the efforts in implementing the policy of national reconciliation with consistency and commitment, Cambodia…created a new era of ‘liberal and multi-party democracy regime,’ which has brought about a full peace, the respect for human rights and dignity and the real development.”
During her speech, Mrs Rany said, “This [degree] represents the efforts of the Cambodian people, including me, toward the reconstruction of our country,” according to South Korean media reports.
Prior to this latest honorary doctorate, the prime minister was already the holder of 10 ceremonial degrees and one honorable professorship at a university in Costa Rica, according to the biography on his website.
Three of the previous doctorates were given by South Korean universities, two from the US, two from Thailand and one from the University of Cambodia.
The remaining honorary degree was bestowed on the prime minister in 2004 by the scandal-wracked Malaysia-based Irish International University, which also awarded him a “medal of excellence.”
That so-called Irish university, which has no links to Ireland, was exposed as a scam during a 2008 investigation by the British Broadcasting Corporation. The IIU is not accredited by the Irish government, and when BBC reporters visited the campus address given on its website, they found only a mailbox.
Government spokesman and Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith could not be reached for comment Tuesday, and Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan declined to comment.
SRP lawmaker Yim Sovann said Thursday by telephone that it was difficult for him to comment about the latest honorary doctorate.
“There are just so many degrees,” he explained. “Any Cambodian who gets any degree from anywhere, we are very happy,” he added.
However, Mr Sovann insisted that all Cambodians must apply the education obtained during their degrees to help their country. For the prime minister, that means tackling corruption in the country, Yim Sovann said.
The opposition lawmaker pointed to a recent claim by US Ambassador Carol Rodley that the Cambodian government loses $500 million in public funds to corruption every year, as well as the long delay in passing anti-corruption legislation, which has been promised since the mid-1990s.