Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Hun Sen asks US Embassy to help certify son’s military degree

Hun Manet, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF). Pahna Chhorpoan

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday urged the United States Embassy to help certify his eldest son’s military degree as genuine after exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy alleged that it was “second-class.”

Rainsy’s claims were challenged by Hun Manet, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) and the first Cambodia to graduate from the West Point in 1999.

“I appeal to the U.S. Embassy: Only the U.S. can confirm the West Point degree,” Hun Sen said at a graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh on Wednesday.

“After they have nothing to play with, now they play with a West Point diploma, and one of them claims that Hun Manet even failed an exam that year,” Hun Sen said, referring to the dissolved opposition CNRP, many of whose senior leaders have fled abroad. Hun Sen and Rainsy have frequently traded insults against each other via speeches and Facebook posts.

“So go and ask West Point; go and ask the U.S. government. If the U.S. government admitted Manet without going through any exams, the U.S. government would be surely a corrupt government,” Hun Sen added.

In a Facebook post on Sept. 30, Rainsy said Hun Sen and his family set bad examples for Cambodian youth and the education system in Cambodia by boasting about “fake” degrees and “second-class” diplomas below international standards.

“In Hun Manet’s case I am referring to a second-class diploma with the recipients having acquired a lower level of knowledge and expertise by US academic standards,” Rainsy wrote.

“In the US and Europe, this kind of diploma is reserved for foreign students with weaker intellectual backgrounds but interesting political connections,” he said, urging Hun Sen’s family to provide evidence of real knowledge and expertise, rather than proposing to take an oath or engaging in a wager.

In a WhatsApp message, the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh dismissed the notion that U.S. universities would hand degrees to nonqualifying students.

“Graduates of U.S. colleges, universities or institutes of higher learning receive degrees or certifications if they meet the requirements of that institution. A student’s country of origin is not a factor,” a spokesperson said.

“We welcome Cambodian students’ interest in studying abroad in the United States,” the spokesperson added, while promoting U.S. higher education as “unmatched.”

The spokesperson would not say whether the embassy would certify Manet’s degree as requested by Hun Sen.

On Tuesday, Manet dared Rainsy to enter a wager with him that if he loses, he would resign from all his positions, and that Rainsy must quit politics if he loses.

“Thank you, Sam Rainsy, for giving us an answer that confirms the level of your courage in defending your words,” Manet wrote. “You do not dare come out and defend what you said.”