Brother Number 3 in Line for a Normal Passport

The scandal over diplomatic passports has taken another twist, with former Khmer Rouge leader Ieng Sary and his wife, Ieng Thirith, applying for ordinary passports.

Ke Sovat, an official of the Min­istry of Interior’s passport office, confirmed the couple were photographed, measured, and interviewed for the passports last week.

The passports, which were ap­proved, have not yet been issued because they are awaiting official signatures, he said.

Officials would not say why Ieng Sary, former Brother Num­ber Three in the Khmer Rouge regime responsible for an estimated 1.5 million deaths between 1975 and 1979, needs a new passport, or where he and his wife plan to go. Ieng Sary tops most lists of those who could face prosecution in a Khmer Rouge tribunal.

When he defected to the government in 1996, he was given a diplomatic passport, as were subordinates Pailin Governor Y Chhean and RCAF General Sok Pheap.

But in August, a scandal erupted when Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong told the National Assembly more than 4,000 such passports had been issued, many to businessmen who had made large political contributions.

Thailand, which is much larger, has issued about 1,000 diplomatic passports. Cambodia has only about 400 officials who are entitled to carry one, officials said.

The Council of Ministers has passed a bill canceling all diplomatic passports as of Jan 1, 2001. About 1,000 will be reissued, and officials are to use them on official trips only. Prime Minister Hun Sen recently said he has taken an ordinary passport for personal trips.

Lawmakers say Ieng Sary has a right to a passport, like any citizen, but admitted they are concerned.

‘’I have some worries’’ the couple could travel abroad, stage their deaths and disappear, said Fun­cinpec Senator Sam Kannitha.

Opposition Assembly member Cheam Channy said he believes Ieng Sary is planning to flee. “This can be a trick of Hun Sen to let senior rebel leaders leave and let their soldiers stay to disrupt any tribunal here,’’ he said.



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