A Chinese woman was arrested Tuesday evening at Pochentong Airport for attempting to bring 40 Chinese passports into Cambodia, senior Immigration Police and Customs officials said.
The suspect—identified as Ren Hongli, a 33-year-old Chinese national by Customs and Excise Department Chief Pen Siman and Immigration Police Chief Prok Saroeun—was stopped after arriving on a Dragon Air flight from Hong Kong.
“She carried the passports from Guangzhou for a travel company based in Phnom Penh….We think that someone was waiting to receive the passports at the airport but when we arrested her they escaped,” Prok Saroeun said Thursday.
He maintained that the people named on the passports were already in Cambodia illegally. “This may have been an attempt to get valid travel documents to them,” said Prok Saroeun.
It is unclear if the Ren Hongli has links to the 28 illegal Chinese immigrants currently being detained at the Immigration Police headquarters or to the more than 200 that were arrested in August and deported secretly last week. Police officials said those recently detained came to Cambodia in hopes of reaching Western nations.
First Deputy Governor of Phnom Penh Chea Sophara has alleged that powerful National Police officials are making thousands of dollars monthly for personal gain by facilitating the cross border movements.
Ren Hongli has not disclosed the name of the travel company she carried the passports for, Prok Saroeun said. She is currently in detention at Immigration Police headquarters and has not yet been charged, he said.
Pen Siman said all 40 passports bore visas for Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia. “The 40 passports were already stamped with entrance visas for Cambodia and also transit visas for Malaysia and Thailand,” Pen Siman said.
The Cambodian visas on the 40 passports were issued at the Cambodian consulate in Guangzhou province in southern China, Pen Siman said, adding they are business and tourist visas, valid from Sept 23 to Dec 23.
Prok Saroeun, who is storing the passports, said he was unsure if the visas for Thailand and Malaysia were for transit or entrance.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman Chum Sunary said the ministry had not been informed of the confiscation of the 40 passports containing Cambodian visas, which were apparently issued at the Cambodian consulate in Guangzhou.
A diplomat with the Thai Embassy said his mission would need to contact the immigration department in Bangkok to verify the authenticity of the visas.
A Malaysian diplomat said his embassy had not been contacted by Cambodian authorities.