New Minister of Interior Sar Sokha has requested that officials in his ministry examine the possibility of lowering the prices of Cambodian passports, noting that current prices are relatively high.

Speaking to officials at the Ministry of Interior on September 4, Sokha said the move would be a boon to the Kingdom’s citizens.

“I urge you all to review the cost of applying for passports of the other countries in the region, especially in ASEAN. Myanmar and Vietnam are far below the average cost in the region, while Thailand and Singapore are slightly more expensive. They are all cheaper than Cambodia, however,” he added.

“The costs are higher here. I urge all relevant institutions to look into this. We all know that the current cost for a passport is at least $100. They are even more expensive if they are issued more quickly,” he explained.

According to the current price list, which was set in 2018, passports are divided into two categories, for children under 6 and older citizens.

For those who are under 6, prices are set at $80, $120, or $160, for application periods of 15, seven, or one day, respectively.

Those for people aged 6 and up cost $100, $150, or $200 for the same three application periods.

They are valid for 10 years.

“I want you all to look into this matter, so we can avoid the costs increasing from one mandate to another. As we all know, the cost of producing the passports is not that high,” said Sokha.

His proposal had sparked debate on social media, with many members of the public welcoming his initiative.

Pa Chanroeun, president of the Cambodian Institute for Democracy (CID), was a supporter of the suggestion.

“I don’t believe that the cost of applying for a passport needs to be lower than other countries, but it should be close to the prices of Thailand or Vietnam. This would contribute to the spending power of people wishing to travel abroad,” he said.

Chanroeun also called on authorities to expand passport services to the provinces, so it would be more accessible to the public.

Yang Peou, secretary-general of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said the issue has been debated for some time. He welcomed the move, saying the costs should have been reduced long ago.

He noted that providing Cambodian passports at a reasonable cost would also reduce illegal migration for jobs abroad, such as in Thailand, as it would provide them with the status of citizens of a sovereign state.

He added that affordable passports would motivate many Cambodians to travel abroad for holidays or to seek medical treatment.

“I really support the idea of reducing the cost of passports. Our economy is smaller than those of some of our neighbours, like Vietnam and Thailand. Average incomes are also lower, so if we can make passports more affordable, people will applaud the move,” he said.

In a separate September 2 meeting with ministry officials, Sokha urged the relevant departments to expedite the issuance of ID cards, as well as passport services, particularly for those who need to travel abroad for work.

“Under this seventh government mandate, I want to follow policies that offer warmth and support to the public. It sounds hard to do, but if we have the will we will find a way,” he said.

He suggested that officials examine the service in other countries and compare it to what is available in the Kingdom.

Tob Neth, director-general of the General Department of Identification (GDI), told The Post on September 3 that the minister is pushing to simplify services for the people and make them more efficient.

He said his working group is looking into self-registration services which will allow people to fill on application forms for ID cards online. He expected the system to be ready for trials in the next three to six months.

“All of us, from the minister to the members of the [GDI], are committed to trying to improve the speed of public services,” he added.