SRP Urges Ministry To Look Into Illegal Passports

SRP lawmaker Son Chhay has called for a wide-scale Interior Ministry investigation into the al­leged sale of Cambodian passports to foreigners.

This comes despite a statement from Interior Minister Sar Kheng that two passports Son Chhay had claimed were illegally issued by the Phnom Penh Passport Office to foreigners were in fact forgeries.

Son Chhay claimed Friday that the passport office, which is run by the Interior Ministry, has been selling passports to foreigners since 2000 for between $2,000 and $5,000 each. Most of the buyers are Chinese, he said.

“It is dangerous for Cambodia,” he said. “They may use a Cam­bodian passport to commit a crime or to open a Cambodian bank ac­count for money laundering.”

On Oct 27, Son Chhay submitted photocopies to the Interior Ministry of two passports he claimed had been illegally issued to Chinese nationals.

But in a letter to National As­sembly President Heng Samrin and provided by Son Chhay on Friday, Sar Kheng said the passports had been issued legitimately to two Cambodians in 2002.

After they expired, Sar Kheng said, an unidentified “offender” switched the photos and altered information on the passports, converting them into other names.

Heng Samrin said he has not seen Sar Kheng’s letter, which is dated Dec 22, but that if forged passports are being issued, they will damage the country’s reputation.

National Police Commissioner Hok Lundy, whose signature ap­pears on all Cambodian passports, referred questions to Sar Kheng.

Tep Sovann, deputy chief of ad­mi­nistration at the Phnom Penh Pass­port Office, said the office has never issued a passport to a for­eigner who has not been for­mal­ly granted Cam­bodian citizenship.

“Everyone comes over to the passport department for interview and photographs for their passports, but we don’t know what happens after they get the passport from us,” he said.

In March 2001, the Interior Min­istry broke a sophisticated for­gery operation in Phnom Penh that was responsible for an estimated 100 people bearing fake Cam­bodian passports entering the US on valid visas.


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