Minister of Interior Sar Kheng asked Sweden to help fight transnational crime, while also highlighting cooperation between the two sides on pursuing sub-national administrative reforms.

He made the request during a meeting with outgoing Swedish ambassador to Cambodia Bjorn Haggmark on June 30, according to the Ministry of Interior.

“[Sar Kheng] requested the Swedish side to examine the possibility of further strengthening police law enforcement work, such as cracking down on transnational crime, including the fight against technology crime, drug issues and counter-terrorism with the Cambodian side,” it said.

Haggmark agreed that the fight against transnational crime is particularly important, especially cybercrime, saying he will bring Sar Kheng’s request to his government.

On sub-national administrative reform, Sar Kheng said Sweden is a country with a lot of experience in this area and has also been involved in the reform in Cambodia.

He said that although the goal of sub-national administrative reform has not been fully achieved, Cambodia had made significant progress and is now preparing to launch a second 10-year plan around the reform.

Sak Setha, the interior ministry’s permanent secretary of state, could not be reached for comment on July 1.

San Chey, executive director of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, told The Post on July 1 that capital, provincial, district and commune administrations are the ones that need both resources and capacity increases to meet the vast needs of the people.

He said the lack of funding for communes and some reforms to be made at the district and commune administrations is also due to the Covid-19 crisis.

“Reform requires two things. One is human resources, and the other is financial resources commensurate with the level of ambition for the reforms and the required political will.

“The assistance of development partners is a complement to what the nation has. But the will or the skills of officials in the sub-national administration must also be looked at, as they need to learn to strengthen their capacity,” he said.

Chey noted that the process of sub-national administrative reform has made interesting progress. But when the economy is hit by Covid-19, the target for grassroots reform has to move on to a new alternative: the use of technology for grassroots work.

“Some work must be considered in light of the use of social media technology, such as meetings or public forums. If Covid-19 still rages on, we should ensure that local service providers are still able to reach people and provide information to them through the platform,” he said.

On diplomatic front, the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced in November the closure of its embassy in Cambodia by the end of this year with all diplomatic contacts instead transferred to its embassy in Thailand.

Haggmark was quoted by the Cambodian interior ministry as saying that despite the closure of the Swedish embassy in Cambodia, Sweden will continue to cooperate with the Cambodian government in the fields of trade, tourism, higher education, research and culture, and that the work will continue to be carried out by its embassy in Bangkok.

Haggmark also requested Cambodia establish an honorary consulate. He said the Swedish embassy in Bangkok is currently awaiting the approval from the Cambodian side to establish an honorary consulate to assist Swedish citizens present in Cambodia.

“Swedish citizens in Cambodia have difficulty renewing their visas due to the expiration of their passports, and the Swedish embassy in Cambodia is unable to accept their required passport application. They have to travel to Bangkok to apply for a new passport, but were lately hampered by Covid-19,” Haggmark was quoted as saying.

Sar Kheng said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation was reviewing the request for the establishment of the honorary consulate.

In the meantime, Haggmark said the Swedish embassy in Cambodia has taken temporary measures by issuing new passport forms to those in need.

He asked the Cambodian side to examine the possibility of renewing residence visas for Swedish citizens utilising the new temporary passport forms.

Sar Kheng said his ministry will gather all the relevant information and then work with colleagues to respond to the embassy regarding this proposal.