We have a funny phrase for making great effort to get an official document. “As difficult as asking for fire from a giant.” And, of course, it is not the first time I experience such a hard time. I’m not a novice to this situation, trying to get an official agreement or document from ministries or departments. Yab.
I have had several attempts to have a passport for myself. Owing to time constraint and yes, my laziness, I failed again and again to get one. I missed good opportunities without a passport. They say, if you want to see the whole world, you’ve got to have one. Absolutely, you’ll progress mentally and spiritually. Well, I should stop whining about this or that reason I didn’t have it earlier.
But one thing that scared me before making the passport was that I was told guys working there were not very nice. They were, like, leeches or ugly-looking people. That’s because they don’t smile at who does not go to them.
A simple practice of making a passport here in Cambodia is that you don’t go directly to the passport department under the control of (perhaps) Ministery of Foreign Affairs. However, it’s staring in the fact that it is full of bureaucracy.
Mind you, it is not the first place that is littered with bureaucracy. It goes without saying that bureaucracy is associated with ‘corruption’ because the longer your documents will be issued/released, the longer you have to wait, the more anxious you’ll get, and the faster you’ll decide to bribe to get yours. Above all, bureaucracy and bribery are cliques of corruptopia.
Simple, isn’t it?
As for me, I feel that it is becoming unfair for such a poor country to spend so much on making a passport. If we compare passport price in Cambodia with a few countries I know, like Thailand, our eyes can gorge out.
Inflation hits the market and also funnily enough, the passport, which has shot up to 140 to 145 dollars. How ridiculous. It is just like a piece of beef or pork being auctioned for at market.
To make a passport here, you need a middleman, whom I figure out is a staff at the passport department. Those guys are in buff-colored uniforms (dress almost like military police), standing all around the place.
A few even live around the department to have two strikes against others. This is a business and whether it is legitimate is not known. My oldest sister and I went to the man, whose father has had his photos taken with Cambodia’s PM and present King on the wall in the house adjacent to the department. When entering, I stood looking at all the photos and documents glued onto the wall until I was called to sit down, as an appropriate invitation.
It’s noticed that it is a wealthy family, with kids playing around and nice furniture, but I am sure that it turns foreigners’ hair when they know people are dealing on passports. To me, I find it way too shocking as to why passports are being sold like pork or beef. Why don’t we just go to the right place (department) to make one and pay some money to make it a complete process?
I have been told for years that it wouldn’t be as easy as I said. A friend of mine assured that if I went directly to the place, I’d have to wait. The official can issue it later to push my pulse, so that I’d bribe. There are many countless stories that passports are hardly returned to owners after the making, because the officials wanted some money for it.
Some people lose hope and trust over those officials, so they depend on the middlemen to proceed for them. That’s why those people can have a business to do, to earn some money. I think, if the passport making procedure were to be done corruption-less, Cambodians wouldn’t need to spend nearly 200 dollars like that. We would just spend around $50 or something just like Thais or Vietnamese.
My middleman helped my sister and me get through the procedure and we received a snarl from an official who announced my name on the mega-phone saying one of the items filled on the application was wrong or something. I went again to the middleman for help.
After that, I came again and completed everything until I had to spend another 4 dollars for my passport photograph which was done in the blink of the eyes. If you have ever played a child’s game, you’d understand how I shifted from one table to the other swiflty, just to get my document checked.
I spotted a woman who had to check my document. She was speaking on the phone and I overheard her saying about making a passport for someone. Oh, she was doing her business while she was working. Well, a good reason to make me wait until she finished.
It was not a pleasing experience at all to have my passport made in Cambodia. Of course, I had no other choices because I was born Cambodian. But of course I don’t like what’s happening here. Money talks all the time, work is not done properly because standard systems for anything are not set definitely.
Hospitals, clinics, markets, schools, bridges, government departments or ministries and yes like this one are places that any form of corruption can take place. Maybe I sound too negative to say, but from top to bottom, corruption exists in a form that can be eliminated, but which takes the neo-generation to start a different action.