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Thai Border Restrictions to be Strengthened to Prevent Smuggling of Right-Hand Drive Vehicles

PHNOM PENH: The Director General of the General Department of Customs and Excise, Kun Nhim, confirmed that he will send additional officials to the Cambodian-Thai border to strengthen measures to prevent the smuggling of right-hand drive vehicles into the country. He said that right-hand drive cars getting illegally importing into Cambodia is a chronic problem that needs a long time to solve.

Responding to a question from EAC News at a press conference on the results of the tax collection on duty-free vehicles and import duties, Director General Kun Nhim confirmed that at present, the General Department of Customs and Excise is preparing procedures and making decisions on the registration of right-hand drive vehicles that are already in the country, along with strengthening restrictions at the Cambodian-Thai border to prevent further smuggling of right-hand drive vehicles into Cambodia.

He said that the reason why the smuggling in of right-hand drive vehicles into the country has been such a long-standing problem is because the Cambodian-Thai border is very long, and the department does not have enough forces to place along the border. He said that in general, the flagging of illegal right-hand drive cars has always been done when the cars have already been smuggled into traffic in Cambodia, and Phnom Penh has recorded the greatest number of these illegal vehicles.

He added that since this problem of illegally importing right-hand drive cars has been around for many years, a lot of time is needed to solve this issue, along with educating the people about the illegal status of these vehicles.

He said, "Another question is whether it is possible to promise that no illegal cars will be imported into the country in 2022 or after. This is a difficult problem, as I said, the border issue is wide, it is long, and criminals still continue to do it! If we have to eliminate 100% [of the illegal import], it will be difficult. But we try to do our part in our position to reduce this issue to a minimum."

Speaking at a meeting with a delegation from the ASEAN Para Games on Wednesday morning, 6 July, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that he has decided to allow existing right-hand drive vehicles to pay their tax without having to adjust the position of their steering wheel, to alleviate the difficulties experienced by car owners. He stressed, however, that this applies only for car owners of right-hand drive vehicles that are already in the Kingdom of Cambodia. Any newly imported right-hand drive cars after 6 July will be immediately seized.

On the morning of Thursday, 7 July, owners of right-hand drive cars that already changed the positioning of their steering wheels protested to the government to withdraw this new decision, urging to keep the requirement stating that all right-hand drive cars need to change the position of the steering wheel to the left-side, just as they had done.

Regarding this case, Director General Kun Nhim said that it is the right of the people to protest, but no other instructions or decisions had been provided yet from their leader, so the department will continue to practice in accordance with the stated orders of the Prime Minister.

"Regarding this protest, we will continue to monitor how it develops, but the General Department of Customs and Excise has not yet received guidance from the leadership," said Kun Nhim. "We are working on what is still in force, preparing to think about implementation, and this practice is to be implemented as soon as possible."

According to a report from the General Department of Customs and Excise, over the course of the 10-month campaign to implement tax on duty-free and tax-free vehicles, 9,753 right-hand drive vehicles came to pay taxes and deposit money to change their steering direction. From the total tax collected, 2,713 left-hand drive vehicles collected a total tax of nearly US $35 million, and more than 7,040 right-hand drive vehicles collected a total tax of over US $41 million.


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