A title given to Teng Boonma as reward for massive donations entitles him to a diplomatic passport, according to the Cambodian Consul-General. King Norodom Sihanouk bestowed the rank of oknha on the businessman on recommendation of the Government, said Chhong Toeun. He said he had inquired in Phnom Penh about Mr Teng Boonma's diplomatic passport. 'When he is oknha, he is powerful and he can [make] contact with the high leaders of our country,' Mr Chhong Toeun told the South China Morning Post. The title was granted to Cambodians who had contributed to building the nation and was equivalent to a ministership, he said. Mr Teng Boonma gave 'a lot of money to the Government so he deserved to get a rank with the Government'. Some of those donations have proved controversial: US$1 million (HK$7.74 million) to Prime Minister Hun Sen to help bankroll the 1997 coup which toppled co-premier Prince Norodom Ranariddh; a bullet-proof limousine for Mr Hun Sen; and a Kingair-200 plane for the prince. The construction and property magnate's diplomatic passport issued in 1995 states he is an adviser to Chea Sim, a former chairman of the Cambodian National Assembly (now Senate chairman) and leader of the Cambodian People's Party. The diplomatic note produced in court yesterday stated Mr Teng Boonma's privileges arose from his title as a mandarin of the royal court with the ranks of Oddom Montrei (the most senior officer) and Neak Oknha, Grand Officer of the Royal Order of Sowarthara. Mr Teng Boonma has been closely linked with Mr Hun Sen and the Cambodian People's Party. He told a TV crew he gave gold, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, to Mr Hun Sen during the 1997 coup. Mr Teng Booma was also never charged for shooting out a plane tyre in Phnom Penh in April 1997, after complaining about poor service and lost luggage. He has openly declared he was born in Bangkok, but stated an interview with the Phnom Penh Post: 'I was born in Cambodia, in Kompong Cham.' He also claimed he was in Thailand in 1975 when the Khmer Rouge's victory in the civil war set Cambodia back to 'year zero'. Upon learning his Khmer passport was useless, he admitted to obtaining a document letting him stay in Thailand from Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, the Thai general who later became premier but was forced to quit amid public disquiet over corruption. 'Chavalit, he was a powerful man, in charge of the military and security. He issued me a letter permitting me to stay in Thailand,' he said.