The Cambodian Embassy in South Korea, hit with a top-level corruption scandal earlier this year, said on Monday that it was cracking down on middlemen who were flouting embassy rules by taking money to renew passports and visas for Cambodian migrants.
Long Dimanche, who replaced his disgraced predecessor as ambassador in June, said the embassy was responding to complaints on social media from Cambodians saying that they were being charged up to 50,000 won, or about $42, in exchange for renewed documentation.
“So far, we’ve identified at least three opportunists, but we believe there are more involved,” Mr. Dimanche said on Monday.
The three were not officials at the embassy but rather migrant workers living in South Korea, he said. The men were told to either stop the practice or face legal action, but declined to elaborate on what punishments they could face, according to Mr. Dimanche.
In response to the warnings, the men claimed they had not committed any wrongdoing by charging for their services because migrant workers and brides living in rural areas would have to spend just as much money to travel to the embassy themselves, Mr. Dimanche added.
“But we clarified that it’s wrong to do so as the embassy does not charge money from Cambodians living and working in [South] Korea to renew their passport,” he said. “We are not allowed to use a middle person to do this.”
Suth Dina, Mr. Dimanche’s predecessor, was arrested by Anti-Corruption Unit officers in Phnom Penh in April and charged with corruption and abuse of power.
During a hearing for his trial at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court earlier this month, court officials read out written testimonies from four embassy officials who accused Mr. Dina of allegedly confiscating migrant workers passports and taking payments for visas. Mr. Dina, in turn, accused the officials of orchestrating a case against him because he had cracked down on their bribery schemes.
Cambodians in South Korea said on Monday that Mr. Dimanche’s posting had improved consular services. Yim Sinorn, head of the opposition CNRP’s youth movement in South Korea, said the embassy was responding more quickly to complaints.
However, accusations of embassy officials being involved in illegitimate transactions had persisted, Mr. Sinorn said, including of some charging money for passport and visa renewals and splitting profits with middlemen.
Park Mi-Hyang, 33, who migrated a decade ago to the city of Gwangju, where she heads the Gwangju Cambodian Association, said Mr. Dimanche had traveled to her city in June to renew 350 expired passports.
“He has provided warmth to migrant workers, and he pays attention to and shows care toward Cambodian brides,” Ms. Park said.