Government employees returning from overseas postings will now have their mission passports collected by immigration officials on arrival, according to a Ministry of Foreign Affairs letter issued on Friday.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said the confiscations are intended to prevent misuse of mission passports – a separate category from diplomatic passports – by civil servants.
“The seized documents belong to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs . . . and the documents are handed to officials for the fulfilling of their mission, not for their private benefit. In the past, some officials breached the trust of the government,” Siphan said. “I heard that some officials overstay their mission overseas to pursue their own business interests.”
The new mandate will not affect officials’ personal passports. Siphan explained that Cambodian passports fall into three categories: Diplomatic, given to senior foreign affairs officials with regular overseas postings; mission, given to officials temporarily overseas on state business; and normal, offered to ordinary citizens for non-official overseas travel.
Siphan, however, was keen to emphasise that an official process exists for the allocation of mission and diplomatic passports, adding that anyone found to be abusing their travel documents would be punished.
The Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific’s Cambodia fellow San Chey praised the initiative, saying it would prevent government officials from exploiting state resources for their own benefit.