The National Assembly on Thursday approved a draft law on nationality which, if passed, would see foreigners prosecuted for illegally obtaining Cambodian identification cards or passports. Penalties are as high as 10 years in prison.
The draft law would also punish anyone who illegally assists others to obtain Cambodian citizenship and increases the amount of investment required to become eligible for Khmer citizenship.
The amount of and types of investment and other conditions would be specified in a sub-decree that will come later.
Minister of Interior Sor Kheng told the National Assembly that the Nationality Law of 1996 is no longer applicable today and even contradicts other laws that are currently being enforced.
“The 1996 law allows a lot of room for error and issues that are pertinent now have not been addressed in the previous law,” Kheng said.
The National Assembly approved moving forward with the draft with 112 votes for it. The draft consists of 10 chapters and 38 articles.
Article 21 of the draft law states that foreigners with legal investments and permission from the relevant authorities can apply for Cambodian citizenship.
A prospective citizen must also demonstrate that he is a “good moral citizen” with no criminal record. Applicants need to reside in Cambodia and have proof of residency from their district official in accordance with the immigration laws.
He or she must be able to speak, read, and write in Khmer, and have adequate knowledge of Cambodian history, apart from being in good health and not requiring social security funds.
Article 22 states that foreigners who offer gifts in cash to the national budget for social developments or to humanitarian organisations in Cambodia can apply for ctizenship if other conditions are met.
Under Article 30, foreigners who illegally obtain and possess Cambodian identification or passports shall be punished with a five- to 10-year prison term. Government agents or others who issued such documents illegally would be subject to punishment, too.
Meanwhile, Article 32 of the draft law states that any person who uses illegally issued ID cards or passports can be sentenced to two to five years in jail and fined between four and 10 million riel ($1,000 to $2,500).
As of January, a total of 1,136 foreigners received Khmer nationality. Of that number, 1,068 obtained citizenship through investment and 64 by living in the Kingdom for longer than seven years. Four foreigners obtained citizenship through outstanding achievements, according to the National Police.
San Chey, the executive director of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, said there were a lot of foreigners, mostly Vietnamese and Chinese, who illegally possessed and used Cambodian documents.
“It’s a very good law. It can prevent commune officials from committing such offences as they are the ones who frequently issue illegal documentation,” Chey said.