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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