New identification cards will help stop foreigners from using fake cards to purchase property or invest illegally in businesses, Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara says.
The new cards will have to be signed off on by Chea Sophara or other governors only, the governor said. Also, information from the new ID cards will be entered in a central computer, making it easier to spot fakes by checking the card against computer records.
“This is my duty,” Chea Sophara said. “I’m responsible…because I’m afraid this ID card will go to Chinese, Malaysian or Vietnamese.”
Officials acknowledge there is a problem with non-Cambodians owning land or owning more than the allowed 51 percent of a business through the use of illegal ID cards.
“A lot of Thai, Malaysian and Chinese look like Cambodians, so they can use the fake ID card to buy the land,” said Ho Sarann, director of judicial affairs and registration division in the Ministry of Commerce.
Foreigners who use fake IDs to buy property can be fined 1 million to 5 million riel or imprisoned for one to five years, Ho Sarann said.
So far, the Ministry of Commerce relies on random checks to stop the use of illegal cards, said Khek Ravy, the ministry’s secretary of state. The ministry checks on ID cards that have a foreign sounding name, and if the owner is not properly registered, the case is handed to the Ministry of the Interior, Khek Ravy said.
Foreigners acquire cards either through a corrupt official or counterfeiting, said Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak.
“With the new ID card, we will move to correct this,” he said. The governor of a province or municipality will have to be ultimately responsible for illegally issued ID cards. “Not even the deputy,” Khieu Sopheak said.
No non-Cambodian can legally own land here, except those explicitly approved by King Norodom Sihanouk. Foreigners with honorary citizenship must be recommended by Prime Minister Hun Sen after showing a commitment to development of the country, Khieu Sopheak said.