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ID card grace period nearing end

The Ministry of Interior yesterday reminded Cambodians of their obligation to obtain new or replacement national ID cards, a common piece of documentation required for people over 15 years of age and the validity of which had previously been extended to accommodate last year’s national elections.

The government had previously granted a two-year extension on the validity of IDs expiring between 2010 and 2013, but an announcement signed by Minister of Interior Sar Kheng said that those whose extensions were ending, and those who were to come of age by July 1, would be obliged to pay the 10,000 riel ($2.50) fee for new IDs.

“Charging for Khmer national identification cards will reduce the burden of the state in spending from the national budget on the process of issuing [them],” Kheng said in the announcement.

Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak acknowledged yesterday that the price might be high for poor Cambodians but that the fees would help with national development, and that paying them was a civic duty.

“Don’t regard the country as belonging to us – we must regard ourselves as belonging to the country,” he said, before going on to paraphrase John F Kennedy. “Don’t ask that what the country can do for you, but ask what you can do for the country.”

However, San Chey, Cambodia fellow for the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific, said that there should nonetheless be an exemption for the poor. What’s more, he added, accepting informal payments for the cards – particularly for expedited processing – was commonplace and was sure to resume once the announcement of the fee receded into memory.

“To make one in a hurry, they [used to] demand $30 to $50. This was after the campaign” to publicise the official fee, he said. “However, the state must limit the price, and that price must be written in an invoice that belongs to the state, and doesn’t allow [the money] to go to the individual [authorities].”

The Ministry of Interior first began publicising an official price of 10,000 riel for ID cards in 2011.

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