Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Wednesday said that the government had begun formalizing the process for obtaining electronic national identity cards in a bid to reduce graft carried out by local authorities.
Speaking on the sidelines of the 10th Government Discussion Forum on Electronic Identity at the Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra, Mr. Kheng said that his ministry was preparing for the second stage of a plan to switch to electronic identity cards.
“So far, the Interior Ministry has issued the new identity card to nearly 20,000 people for the first phase,” he said, adding that the next step was to focus on about 5.5 million people whose identity cards expire on December 31.
In the past, people paid informal fees—between 10,000 and 20,000 riel, or $2.50 to $5—to be issued identity cards by local authorities.
Mr. Kheng said Wednesday that the new identity cards could only be obtained through formal fees, but he did not give a dollar figure.
Mr. Kheng said that the government was preparing to approve the next 5.5 million electronic identity cards, but that there could be a delay, which would leave millions without an identity card starting January 1.
“This work will not be done by 31 December 2013 because with more than 5 million cards [to produce], we do not have the capacity or the resources,” he said.
Contacted Wednesday, Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said he too was unaware how much the new, electronic identity cards would cost.
“Normally, the service fee will be charged in a democratic country,” he said. “Only in a communist country would there be no service charged…because it is a planned economy.”
Ke Sovath, deputy director at the ministry’s passport department, said fees for passports would remain the same.
“It costs $124 to make the passport within 21 days,” he said. “There are no other fees.”