Co-Ministers of Interior Sar Kheng and You Hockry have ordered local authorities to stop taking money from people making their family books.
They said people are already short of money due to recent flooding and poor harvests, and that the government wants to promote the making of family books so that every citizen can be identified.
Family books are used to keep track of such vital statistics as date of birth, date of marriage, number of children and date of death. Changes to the family book must be authorized by commune or district police officials. Families that have a book can then get ID cards, identifying them as Cambodian citizens.
Ouk Kim Lek, director of the Ministry of Interior police said families were charged 5,500 riel ($1.40) for a book in the past and people have never been charged for ID cards.
But some commune and district police officials have been accused recently of demanding up to 30,000 riel ($7.70) before authorizing the books.
The Ministry of Interior decree will be sent to local authorities in two or three days, Ouk Kim Lek said.
He added that he is worried local authorities will refuse to cooperate and ignore the government’s order.
“In the past I heard they demanded more money from families than the government allowed them to take,” Ouk Kim Lek said.
If family books are not made, it will be harder to identify suspects in crimes, he said, adding that the government cannot delay issuing proper identification any longer.
Ouk Kim Lek said family books were last updated in 1998, but the process was halted and then restarted in early 1999. Today only half of all families have up-to-date family books, while the half do not, because they lack money.
Without a family book, they cannot get ID cards, so the government has decided to offer family books to people for free, he said.
“Some people do not understand the necessity of having a family book and an ID card,” Ouk Kim Lek said.
“If you have them you are Cambodian, if not you are living here illegally; it prevents foreigners from claiming they are [Cambodian citizens].”
Kieng Vang, secretary of state of Interior Ministry, said Wednesday the government changed its policy because, even though the government needs money, lawmakers think about the people and understand them.