Tourism Official Fired After Visa Scandal

Sambo Che, the Ministry of Tourism undersecretary of state who has been under government investigation for several months for his alleged role in a fraudulent US visa scam, was fired Monday.

A royal decree released Mon­day said he was fired because of his “irregular work” in his government position, according to Chea Son, chief of cabinet for Senate Pres­ident Chea Sim. Chea Sim, acting head of state while King Norodom Sihanouk is visiting China, signed the decree in re­sponse to a government proposal, Chea Son said.

Sambo Che, a US citizen who spent part of his childhood in Washington, DC, said by telephone Tuesday that he had not seen the royal decree. He said he was out of the office Tuesday, campaigning for Funcinpec candidates in Kompong Cham.

“I haven’t been told officially… and no one has told me informally,” he said. “Until I have seen it in black and white, I cannot comment.”

Minister of Tourism Veng Ser­ey­vuth said Tuesday he had seen the decree. “It said Sambo Che was to stop working,” he said.

Veng Sereyvuth did not say why Sambo Che was fired. One government official who did not want to be identified said Sambo Che lost his job because of his alleged involvement in the visa scandal.

Last October, US Ambassador Kent Wiedemann gave Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong a memo titled “Fraudulent Visa Ap­plications Submitted To US Em­bassy.” The memo included a list of names of people believed to have traveled to the US posing as members of Cambodian government delegations.

The government then began an investigation into whether Ministry of Foreign Affairs documents were fabricated in order to guarantee applicants preferential treatment in the US visa application process.

One document, written last August, names five members of a Ministry of Tourism delegation, all listed as holders of government service passports, who wished to accompany Sambo Che to the US on a “tourism advertising mission.” The US Embassy issued them visas.

“The letter was a fake. I am shocked myself. I am searching for information. I have nothing to do with this at all,” Sambo Che said in October.


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