Readers of the weekend edition of the Khmer-language newspaper Koh Santepheap learned through a front-page advertisement that Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh has received a doctoral degree in economics from the little-known Ashwood University in the US.
The advertisement, placed by Hor Meng, general director of the electronics-import firm Sunsimexco, congratulated the minister and wished him health, prosperity and wisdom in leading the Cambodian economy.
According to the Ashwood University Web site, its doctoral degrees are awarded for a $599 fee based upon “work or life experience.”
“This program offers you an opportunity to earn a doctorate’s degree based on your work or life experience, without requiring you to take admission exams, attend classes or study course books,” the Web site states. “The assessment for your doctorate’s degree will be done by our professional and knowledgeable evaluation faculty for free without charging your credit card. If you qualify, your card will then be charged and your degree sent to you in seven days.”
Cham Nimul, the minister’s daughter and cabinet chief, confirmed Cham Prasidh had received the degree. “He received this degree and it is a real degree,” she said. “This is a personal matter.”
Cham Prasidh said he was too busy to speak to a reporter.
The US state of Oregon’s Office of Degree Authorization describes Ashwood University as a “degree mill.” The state’s Web site defines degree mills as entities that “as determined by government action, [have] engaged in dishonest, fraudulent or deceptive practices related to the award or degrees,” or which are US entities with no government approval to issue degrees.
Cham Prasidh is not the first official to receive a degree from a little-known university. In April 2004, Prime Minister Hun Sen received an honorary doctorate from the obscure, Kuala Lumpur-based Irish International University.
Officials at the time said they knew very little about the record of the university, which on April 10 of that year dubbed Hun Sen a “doctor of philosophy and political science” during a ceremony at the Council of Ministers.