Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a directive on Monday instructing officials returning from work overseas to hold on to their mission passports, directly contravening two recent Foreign Ministry announcements calling on officials to hand the passports over upon return in a bid to prevent their misuse.
The first Foreign Ministry letter, dated March 4, ordered that mission passports – akin to diplomatic passports but issued to civil servants temporarily abroad on official business – be confiscated when officials returned from their trips.
The second letter, on March 9, doubled down, expressing shock at the idea that passports had been misused for private gain – both by officials who used them for non-official business, and by those who had no business holding them in the first place.
“It was greatly surprising to the authorities, who could not understand how an illegal worker came to be holding a mission passport,” the letter reads.
However, Hun Sen on Monday overruled the Foreign Ministry without explanation, telling public officials to retain the passports.
“After finishing their mission abroad, officials from all ministries and institutions are to keep their mission passport,” the premier’s directive reads, adding officials must be careful not to misuse the document and risk bringing the Kingdom into disrepute.
Ministry spokesperson Chum Sounry yesterday said he did not see a conflict between the opposing edicts, describing the ministry letters as being for informational purposes only, whereas Hun Sen’s directive is “a rule all ministries must follow”. Hun Sen spokesperson Eang Sophalleth was unreachable.
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