Foreigners wanting to wed a Cambodian national must now submit their marriage applications to their home country’s embassy or consulate instead of directly to the Foreign Affairs Ministry in an effort to cut down on the potential for bribery during the marriage license process, the ministry said Sunday.
The new procedure requires future spouses to file the same documents but with their own government first, as opposed to presenting their documents at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, according to a diplomatic note from the ministry dated Saturday and circulated to foreign embassies and consulates. Once a foreign embassy approves the submission papers, the marriage application should then be sent to the Foreign Ministry, which will review it and forward it on to the Interior Ministry.
“Direct contact between the applicants and staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation with regard to the application will not be permitted in order to avoid any possible act of bribery,” the diplomatic note reads. “Any attempt by the applicants to directly contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation may result in the rejection of the application,” it added.
The change in the marriage application process comes on the heels of bribery and extortion allegations last week from Western men trying to marry Cambodian women. The couples claimed officials within the ministry have asked for pay offs sometimes totaling more than $1,000 in order to process their applications.
Kuy Kuong, undersecretary of state and spokesman for the foreign ministry, said the new system aims to stop corruption by preventing those dealing with the applications from openly demanding money from the public.
Mr Kuong said the alleged wrongdoing in the ministry was isolated to a few offenders rather than a systemic problem.
“The previous news has dismayed officials in the ministry who are innocent,” he said. “We will look into the case to find the extortionist if they [the victim] reveals to us their name,” he reiterated.
He said if a foreign applicant does not have an embassy or consulate based in Cambodia the application could be submitted by mail from the appropriate embassy responsible for diplomatic relations with Cambodia.
When reached for comment Sunday, US Embassy spokesman John Johnson declined to comment, saying the office did not have enough time to digest the new procedure. However, the embassy’s website, which recently updated its instructions for Americans wanting to marry Cambodians, stated individuals must work through the ministry rather than the embassy.
“US citizens should request marriage applications from the Legal and Consular Department” at the ministry of Foreign Affairs, the website read. “Upon obtaining and certifying the necessary documents, US citizens must fill out the application form, and submit it to the [ministry].”
Other embassies could not be reached for comment late Sunday.
Mr Kuong said the ministry is confidant foreign embassies in Cambodia will embrace the new rules regarding marriage and he believed that it would actually add to the workload of his ministry’s employees rather than reduce it.
“We will be busy carrying the document from the embassy to the ministry and vice versa,” he said.