After a delay of more than three years, the government plans to begin issuing national identification cards at the beginning of February, a Ministry of Interior official said Monday.
Ouk Kim Lek, the director of administration at the Ministry of Interior, said the cards will be issued to about million Cambodians who are above the age of 18.
The cards will be issued to Cambodians who can prove their nationality with a “Family Book,” a booklet of identification. Later, those who apply for Cambodian citizenship through marriage with a Cambodian citizen, or those non-Cambodians who have lived in Cambodia for more than 10 years, may also apply.
General Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, said that the new card, which will be required for land purchases and passport applications, is being launched in an effort to standardize identification of Cambodian citizens.
“Before, we have many different ID cards…and many who come from refugee camps or former Khmer Rouge-held areas don’t even have cards,” he said. Details about how the compulsory program would be implemented weren’t available.
Three years ago, government officials also said the ID cards would be used to determine voter eligibility.
Human rights groups are worried, however, that the card may be used to discriminate against ethnic groups, such as the Chinese and Vietnamese living legally in Cambodia.
Kek Galabru, founder of the local human rights group Licadho, said that she hoped that the government would concentrate on controlling illegal immigrants, and not use the new system to abuse the rights of legal migrants.
Khieu Sopheak said the ID card will hold the person’s photograph, thumbprint, signature and other biographical information. He said that he hoped that the new card would help in keeping track of criminals.
It is also hoped that the new card will stop illegal selling of identification papers to illegal immigrants, said Ouk Kim Lek.
Some 20,000 cards already have been issued to members of the National Assembly, Senate and to government and police workers.