This week, the Ministry of Information issued guidance for all media organizations and journalists in the Kingdom to address Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen by his honorific title bestowed by the King of Cambodia, as The Cambodia Daily reported in its article, “Government Threatens Media Outlets Over Titles” (May 13).
In response to the guidance, many media outlets, including the BBC, The Washington Post, The Phnom Penh Post and The Cambodia Daily, bashed the move made by the Cambodian government.
In some of the articles, the authors claimed that the move was aimed at pro-opposition and Western media organizations and journalists. The authors of The Daily’s article “Hun Sen Says Newspaper Could Face Legal Action,” published on the same day, took the opportunity to give biased criticism against the current government on recent political events.
Time and again, double standards are found in Western-based media organizations—especially those that operate inside the Kingdom. For instance, it is rare to find any paper that addresses any member of the House of Lords of the U.K. without their honorific title. On the contrary, most papers in Cambodia often prefer to address Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen as just Mr. Hun Sen or Prime Minister Hun Sen.
See, every country has its own protocol, tradition, and culture. Honorific titles are part of Cambodian protocol, tradition, and culture. Honorific titles go beyond power and control, but they represent a sense of national pride that Cambodians have.
Cambodia has remained a monarchy, and Cambodians love and support their king for a reason. Hence, the honorific titles bestowed by the king on nobles and dignitaries are part of Cambodian belief systems and culture.
Moreover, given all the accomplishments that Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen has brought to Cambodia, he deserves tremendous respect and to be addressed with his honorific title.
Therefore, if a media organization operates in the Kingdom and respects Cambodian protocol, tradition, and culture, and reflects on Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen’s achievements, it should not have a hard time addressing him by his honorific title.