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Passports for migrant workers can’t be issued any faster, Sar Kheng says

People stand in a queue to apply for Cambodian passports at the passport office in Phnom Penh last year.
People stand in a queue to apply for Cambodian passports at the passport office in Phnom Penh last year. Leonie Kijewski

Passports for migrant workers can’t be issued any faster, Sar Kheng says

Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Monday said the Cambodian government could not afford more passport printing machines to speed up the process of documenting the hundreds of thousands of citizens working abroad, predominantly in Thailand.

At the presentation of the annual report for the General Department of Identification on Monday, Kheng said the machines were simply too costly. He said it was possible for Cambodians to apply for their passports in four locations – Phnom Penh and three border provinces – but the ministry had to ship the passports from Phnom Penh.

“We only have the capacity to make passports and identification cards at one place because the equipment is not cheap . . . Therefore we cannot afford it yet, and the Ministry of Economy [and Finance] would not give us money because it is expensive,” he said. “The machine is worth millions, but I do not know about it specifically.”

The Ministry of Interior has an allocated budget of $409 million for 2018.

Sok Sophorn, deputy chief of the Interior Ministry’s Passport Department, yesterday said he didn’t know the costs of the machines. “We are just the ones who use it,” he said, and directed questions to the company that had provided the machines – Sok Hong company.

A representative of the company said she didn’t know about the costs.

Kheng on Monday also seemed to implicitly accept that some corruption might make the documentation process more costly for migrants.

“There could be some bad officials [who take money] but the government in principle does not charge them money,” he said.

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