A provincial governor’s request to rename a Siem Reap City high school after Prime Minister Hun Sen has been abandoned, according to an official and the school—a decision some have speculated was influenced by online criticism of the suggested change.
Khim Bunsong sent a letter dated June 20 to the Education Ministry requesting that Angkor High School in Sala Kamroeuk commune take on a new name, Techo Hun Sen Angkor High School. It explained that the change would show appreciation for Mr. Hun Sen’s recent contributions to the school, which has led to the construction of four buildings.
But a post to the school’s official Facebook page on Wednesday said that the name would not be changed after all, without explaining the reason for the decision.
“The director of Angkor High School is pleased to inform all teachers and students that Angkor High School will not be changing its name or adding anything to its original name,” it says.
Ministry spokesman Ros Salin did not respond to a request for comment, and neither Minister Hang Chuon Naron nor Mr. Bunsong, the provincial governor, could be reached.
But the ministry’s provincial director, Soy Titiavong, confirmed on Sunday that the name change had not been approved, and declined to comment further.
Sok Vansyden, a math teacher at the school, said it was likely that a barrage of Facebook comments complaining about the potential change had put an end to the plan.
“Some of the teachers posted about their dissatisfaction on Facebook. So did some students. There are quite a lot of posts about this,” she said. “There are teachers and students who do not like this idea. They want to keep the original name.”
Siem Reap has become a CNRP stronghold in recent years, with the opposition beating the ruling CPP in both the province and city during the June 4 commune elections. In Sala Kamroeuk, the CNRP took 63 percent of the vote to the CPP’s 34 percent.
One Facebook user under the name of Sokhany Sok wrote that Siem Reap residents had not called for the name change.
“The name of the school has been around for a long time already,” the user wrote. “The only ones who want to change it are those who are doing ass-kissing.”
Sebastian Strangio, author of “Hun Sen’s Cambodia,” said the backlash against the attempt to flatter the premier showed a change among the populace.
“This is an example that ordinary people are growing to be more skeptical of the claims of those in power…that make Hun Sen out to be a superhero figure and great benefactor of the people.”
(Additional reporting by Janelle Retka)