Minister Concedes Diplomatic Passport Glut

Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong confirmed before a parliamentary commission Tues­day that diplomatic passports are issued to government officials out­side the diplomatic community.

Hor Namhong said he will re­quest a meeting with the Council of Ministers to discuss how many passports should be issued each year and who should be receiving them, said Parlia­mentarian Ok Socheat, who sits on the Assem­bly’s Com­mission of Fo­reign Affairs, International Co­opera­tion and Information.

The minister said more than 4,000 Cambodian diplomatic passports have been issued, Ok So­cheat said. The number of eligible diplomats in Cambodia reportedly is closer to 400. The documents al­low carriers to travel throughout the region without scrutiny at im­mi­­gration posts. “Thailand’s a lot big­ger country, and they only issued 1,000,” Ok Socheat said.

The minister blamed the ex­cess in diplomatic passports on disorganization within the government. “Rules are wide open for many government officials to get diplomatic passports right now,” Ok Socheat said. “Even a small adviser can get a diplomatic passport.”

Ok Socheat also cited the abuse of privileges by Chinese businessmen who use the diplomatic passports to travel unhindered.

He said the diplomatic passport discovered last month during a raid on a large weapons cache in a house in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kok district shouldn’t have been is­sued. After that raid, which resulted in the arrest of a Tai­wan­ese crime boss who carried several pass­ports—including a diplomatic one—government officials and diplo­matic sources said the pass­ports are often given out as political favors.

Hor Namhong also acknowledged a problem with the is­su­ance of normal and tourist visas, but blamed corrupt tourist agencies. “Over­seas tour agencies collect visas and take too much money from them,” he said. “When they purchase visas at the Cambodian embassies they pay normal price. But even Cam­bod­ian tour agencies who issue visas take money from the people.”

Ok Socheat said overseas em­bassies are illegally charging students who study overseas and need permission from the Cam­bo­­dian embassy to extend their visas.

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