This week Prime Minister Hun Sen took part in an inauguration ceremony of a nearly 10 km stretch of road in Preah Sihanouk province.
Besides overseeing the opening of the thoroughfare, the premier is attached to the road in another manner—they share the same name.
The street makes up an evergrowing list of roads, bridges, schools, libraries and other bits of infrastructure that are named after the prime minister. In fact, his cabinet reported this week that more than 3,300 schools are now named “Hun Sen.” Exact figures for roadways and other structures were not available.
Hun Sitha, deputy director of Hun Sen’s cabinet, said Hun Sen did not personally name all of the 3,349 schools. Sometimes, he explained, the community it serves agrees upon the title without Hun Sen’s knowledge.
“It depends on the local people to put the prime minister’s name after the original name,” he said. “The prime minister does not know it is the local people’s favorite.”
According to Sboang Sarath, governor of Preah Sihanouk province, there is only one road called Hun Sen but 64 schools throughout the province that bear his name. He said he was not sure when the road was named after the prime minister since it already had the designation when he came to work in the province in 1998.
Yoeun Sophal, director of the National Rural Road department in the Ministry of Rural Development, said the premier often instructs the ministry to use the phrase “initiated by” rather than “constructed by” to avoid giving the wrong impression.
“It can confuse the public that phrase because some roads are granted by donors or NGOs,” he said, adding, “If it is the prime minister’s money, it is not a problem.”
He said about 70 percent of Cambodia’s roads are under the control of the ministry and not many are given the name Hun Sen, though he did not know the exact number that did.
Sophea Mar, a social sector officer with the Asian Development Bank, said the agency has helped finance more than 200 secondary schools—each costing between $50,000 to $55,000—throughout the country but leaves the naming of the buildings up to the community or government.
“We have nothing to do with the name,” he said. “Normally the school’s name is carried with the commune name.”
For SRP President Sam Rainsy, the greater problem is not the name of the schools but Cambodia’s dearth of paved roadways and constructed schools.
“All the schools are named after Hun Sen, but there are not enough schools,” he said.