Nine years after Cambodia’s King Norodom Sihamoni conferred an honorary title on longtime ruler Hun Sen, authorities told media outlets Thursday that journalists must refer to the prime minister by his formal title, Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo — which roughly translates from Khmer as Lord Prime Minister and Supreme Military Commander.
At a three-hour long briefing held by the country’s ministry of information, officials told reporters that starting August, full titles must be used on first reference of Prime Minister Sen or his wife Bun Rany and several ruling party officials, all of whom have honorary titles. Without specifying any punishment, officials said media outlets not following the rule would be subject to legal action.
“We want you to state the full title of leaders in the story’s lead or first sentence,” Ouk Kimseng, an under-secretary of state at the Information Ministry, said at the meeting, adding that later references in the story did not have to use the long title, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
The ministry has issued similar guidelines in the past which have been largely overlooked. Officials at the briefing also questioned why media houses had not adhered to the rulings — meant to show respect for the country’s highest leaders — in the past.
According to AP, the new rules appeared to specifically target media considered pro-opposition and pro-Western by the government. Pro-government media usually use Hun Sen’s formal title.
Hun Sen has recently been trying to exert greater control over both traditional media and social media in Cambodia. One of the longest-serving leaders in the world, the former Khmer Rouge commander first became prime minister of Cambodia in 1985 and has held that position since then through a combination of political intrigue and strongman tactics.