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Cambodia denies it issued a passport to former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, despite evidence in Hong Kong corporate filings

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 11/1/2019 Phila Siu and Karen Zhang
Yingluck Shinawatra standing in front of a crowd © EPA

Cambodia has denied that it issued a passport to Thailand’s former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who has been in self-imposed exile since 2017, even though official corporate filings clearly show that she is a Cambodian passport holder.

General Mao Chandara, director general of the identification department at the interior ministry, made the claim to ThePhnom Penh Post on Thursday, a day after the South China Morning Post cited Hong Kong corporate filings that showed Yingluck used a Cambodian passport to register as the sole director of a Hong Kong company that was incorporated in August last year. The Post also reproduced a copy of the filed document.

But Cambodian spokesman Chandara said on Thursday: "We don’t know whether it is fake or not, but we never issue passports to foreigners.”

A passport can be issued to only foreigners who have been naturalised via a royal decree by King Norodom Sihamoni, Chandara added on Thursday.

"Who in the world doesn’t know that Yingluck is a Thai national and the former prime minister of Thailand? How could she use a Cambodian passport to register for a company as a Cambodian citizen? We don’t know what is happening in this story,” he said.

The corporate filings have added weight to the theory that Yingluck fled her country in August 2017 via Cambodia, ahead of a court ruling that sentenced her to five years in prison for mishandling rice subsidies, charges she rejected as political persecution.

Even though Chandara said Cambodia "never” issues passports to foreigners, the Khmer Times reported last year that 1,518 foreigners were granted Cambodian nationality from 2014 to 2017.

The Khmer Times quoted Chandara as saying at the time that some foreigners were given Cambodian nationality by investing in the country, while others acquired it by marrying a Cambodian national.

He was quoted as saying at the time: "The law states that if a foreigner had 1,250 million riel (US$300,000) to invest in the country and had a home address in Cambodia, they were eligible for gaining nationality.”

In 2005, Hollywood superstar Angelina Jolie received her Cambodian passport after adopting a Cambodian child three years earlier.

Vitus Leung Wing-hang, a lawyer in Hong Kong, said there could just be some misunderstanding on the part of the Cambodia government regarding the passport’s authenticity. But if it was a fake passport, using one to register a Hong Kong company is a criminal offence.

Kenneth Leung, the Hong Kong accountancy-sector lawmaker, said if Yingluck’s Cambodian passport was not genuine, police should look into the case. But he was not sure how far a possible investigation would get because Yingluck apparently does not live in Hong Kong.

The Post has contacted the Companies Registry and police for comment.

It is not clear what business Yingluck’s Hong Kong company, called P.T. Corporation, is in. But just four months after she set up the company, she was appointed chairwoman of Shantou International Container Terminals, a Guangdong-based port operator, other documents show.

Cambodia is a close ally of China, with deep economic and military links.

When the Post visited the registered address of Yingluck’s Hong Kong company in Tsim Sha Tsui, the office was occupied by a company called Pacific International Capital.

Staff there said they did not know anything about P.T. Corporation or its connection with Yingluck.

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia. For more SCMP stories, please download our mobile app, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

Copyright (c) 2019. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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