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An Open Letter to Cambodia’s Hun Manet About His PhD Thesis

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An Open Letter to Cambodia’s Hun Manet About His PhD Thesis

Despite repeated requests, Bristol University has refused to release the Cambodian leader’s doctoral thesis in economics.

An Open Letter to Cambodia’s Hun Manet About His PhD Thesis

Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Manet addresses the National Assembly after it confirmed his accession to the country’s top office, August 22, 2023.

Credit: Facebook/Samdech Thipadei Hun Manet, Prime Minister of Cambodia

Prime Minister Dr. Hun Manet,

At present, your PhD thesis, completed at Bristol University in 2009, sits gathering dust on a shelf in a library building in southwest Britain.

No one reads it and no one is allowed to photocopy it. Neither is it possible to transfer it to any other academic library. The thesis is literally kept under lock and key.

Most theses are readily available to be read by interested researchers everywhere. You will have needed to read many completed theses yourself in the course of your studies.

In early August, I made a request to the university under British freedom of information legislation to be allowed to make a copy of your thesis. Unpublished academic theses can be released under British law if this is deemed to be in the public interest. Given your position as prime minister of a least developed country, the public interest grounds for releasing your research, which I understand concerns small and medium-sized businesses, is clear. For many poor countries, as you know, small business growth is the most realistic engine of mass job creation.

My request was refused by the university. You said in a public speech on November 2 that you are willing to provide your thesis on request. The following day, I received notification from the university that my appeal of their original decision had also been refused.

I have contacted your press office to request a copy of the thesis but have not yet received a reply. Bristol University has contacted you to ask for permission to digitize your thesis, but as yet they don’t have an answer either.

I have relayed the latest decision from the university to your press office, again without reply. With the process of trying to obtain the thesis from the university now exhausted, the only possible further avenue is an appeal to the British government’s Information Commissioner.

There is everything to be gained by making the fruits of your years of research publicly available. This would allow expert public discussion which, in the case of most academic theses, allows knowledge in the subject area to move forward.

The implications of your research for the Cambodian economy could be evaluated and very possibly improved by specialists, including Cambodians, who have devoted their whole working lives to the subject. I hope that you will make it available by any convenient method as soon as possible.

Editor’s note: shortly after the publication of this open letter, Prime Minister Hun Manet issued a response and released his PhD thesis. The thesis is available for download here.