Chey Sambo, Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Tourism (MoT), has been placed
under investigation for allegedly falsifying documents in order to obtain travel
visas to the United States.
Minister at the MoT, Veng Sereyvuth, said he would personally head an investigation
into the matter.
"It's premature to be making any accusation. We'll cooperate [on the investigation]
with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs," he said.
Sambo, the son-in-law of co-Minister for the Ministry of Interior, You Hokry, is
being investigated for allegedly falsely claiming that five people were employees
of the MoT and traveling to the US as part of an official delegation.
The five people, whose passports are consecutively numbered, were listed by the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation as a employees at the MoT in a letter
to the US Embassy. The letter requested that Sambo and five others be given visas
"to attend a tourism advertising mission in Washington DC, New York, California
and Seattle, to be held on the end of 2001".
"We can confirm that those five individuals are not officials of the Ministry,"
Sereyvuth told the Post.
A faxed and unsigned statement, that apparently emanated from within MoT, claimed
that it was not the first time that Sambo, who is himself a US citizen, had used
his position in this way. The statement alleged that "those who intend to live
in the United States" had paid between $15,000 and $20,000 to Sambo and another
MoT official to get listed on visa request letters.
The five had been given various fake titles as officials at the finance and planning
departments and "assistance" (sic) to Sambo and to the Minister himself.
The result, according to the statement, was that the US embassy had been "coerced"
into granting the visas.
Secretary of State at the MoT, Thong Khon, said that it was not possible to confirm
how many times the alleged visa scam had been pulled.
"We don't how long this has gone on, we don't know if it's the first time or
the second. We'll just have to wait for the investigation," he said.
According to the faxed statement, the US embassy discovered that the members of the
delegation were not officials. However, spokesman Ken Foster said that the embassy
was unaware of the situation.
The investigation comes little more than a week after a high ranking official from
the National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD) was charged with drugs trafficking.
Colonel Sok Sophak, personal aide to NACD head, Em Sam An, was arrested along with
three others at Phnom Penh's Pacific Hotel in possession of 5,000 amphetamine pills.