Hun Sen mulls single citizenship rule for civil servants, armed forces

Cambodia had previously amended several articles of the Constitution in October 2021, to mandate single citizenship for the nation’s top office holders.

Ry Sochan

Ry Sochan

The Phnom Penh Post


Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks at National Road 7 groundbreaking event in Kampong Cham province on January 9. SPM

January 10, 2023

PHNOM PENH – Prime Minister Hun Sen said he is considering requesting a constitutional amendment that will require all government officials, members of the armed forces and politicians to hold a single citizenship.

Cambodia amended several articles of the Constitution in October 2021, to mandate single citizenship for the nation’s top office holders.

Articles 19, 82, 106, 119 and 137 of the Constitution and articles 3 and 4 of the Additional Constitutional Law were altered, meaning that the prime minister and presidents of the National Assembly, Senate and Constitutional Council must hold only a single citizenship.

Speaking at a groundbreaking ceremony for a road upgrade project in Kampong Cham province on January 9, he suggested that the single citizenship mandate also apply to lower level officials.

He added that the issue had been mooted following comments by a foreign diplomat regarding the trial and detention of an individual with dual citizenship.

“After the court sentenced a convicted criminal to prison, an ambassador pointed out that the person is a foreign citizen, as if this entitled that person to special treatment,” he said.

“I think we could end this issue by requiring all politicians to only hold Khmer citizenship. This way, our foreign friends would understand that they are talking about my people.

“You think one of your citizens has been jailed in Cambodia. If the person was participating in politics in Cambodia, then that person is Cambodian. When the person returns to your country, then that person is your citizen. Foreigners cannot take part in Cambodian politics,” he said.

“Therefore, we will consider whether or not to introduce the new requirement.”

He also questioned whether any ASEAN countries allow their politicians to hold multiple citizenships. In Cambodia, he noted that there are currently only 13 people who must hold single citizenship – the top leaders as stated in the constitutional amendment and the nine members of the National Election Committee (NEC).

As all of the National Assembly’s 125 lawmakers are from the Cambodian People’s Party, Hun Sen said it would not be difficult to amend the Constitution. He noted, however, that while the single citizenship requirement could affect Cambodians living abroad, it is also meant to encourage them to return to help develop their homeland.

He said he is also aware that several CPP officials hold dual nationalities. Should the amendment be introduced, they must be willing to relinquish one of them.

“If foreign ambassadors keep insisting on this and that, we may have to take this matter under consideration,” he said.

“This would end their ridiculous demands. After all, this is our nation – why are these people making a mess here?” he asked rhetorically.

Kin Phea, director of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said that due to war, many Cambodians had winded up in other countries. Some of them, he said, had returned to involve themselves in politics. The issue was that some of them used their dual citizenship to try to put pressure on the Cambodian government.

“Another advantage is that it puts everybody on an equal footing. Dual passport holders have been known to use their second passport to flee abroad to avoid prosecution for wrongdoing,” he said.

“If they really love the nation and want to serve it with honesty, they should relinquish their other citizenship. If they want to maintain both, they should not use one to claim that they are from another country just as soon as they face a legal issue,” he concluded.

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