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A screenshot from a video circulating on social media shows Kheng Sokanha, a passport official, using her phone as a person waits at her desk for assistance. Photo supplied
A screenshot from a video circulating on social media shows Kheng Sokanha, a passport official, using her phone as a person waits at her desk for assistance. Photo supplied

Facebook lands passport department official in jam

An official at the government’s passport department has found herself in hot water after a video of her checking Facebook rather than servicing customers went viral.

In a letter sent on Friday, General Prumh Chansokha, director of the passport department, removed Lieutenant Kheng Sokanha from her position at the office where she helped issue passports a day after the video clip surfaced showing her using her smartphone during working hours as people were waiting for service. She was reassigned to a post in an administrative office after the clip was widely shared and criticised.

“We are transferring Lieutenant Kheng Sokanha from the document-processing office and reassigning her to work at the administrative office of the Passport Department,” Chansokha’s letter reads.

“The Department has punished her through normal procedure and regulations,” he continues, adding that she will be “educated” at her new post.

In the clip, Sokanha is seen using her smartphone while a young lady waits in front of her desk, apparently seeking assistance.

“Remove her from the post, she cannot change her behaviour at all,” reads one comment posted by a user named Seycha Chea.

Sokanha’s transference comes just days after Prime Minister Hun Sen criticised local officials for delaying the issuance of identification cards to members of the public.

San Chey, executive director for the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, said that this type of behaviour has become expected within Cambodian governmental offices.

“It’s part of the whole system,” Chey said, adding that her behaviour is “normal for this administration”.

When asked if Sokanha should have been fired instead, Chey said that “punishing one individual is not going to change the system. The next person would just do the same thing.”

“Officials are not appointed based on merit, but because of connections and bribery,” Chey said. “Why would they care about doing a good job?”

Prok May Oudom, spokesman for the General Department of Identification, said he believed the punishment was adequate.

“She was careless in her work,” Oudom acknowledged, while maintaining that Sokanha’s transference was “enough”.

“It was the appropriate punishment because she was instructed and punished through the administration,” he said.

Along with Chansokha’s letter, the department published regulations for the behaviour of individuals visiting the office.

Among these regulations is a ban on taking videos within the premises.

Additional reporting by Andrew Nachemson



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