Customs officials in Cambodia are welcoming Vietnam’s move to raise gas prices, saying they hope it will reduce the amount of gas being smuggled in from across the border.
“If the price of gasoline in Vietnam is the same as in Cambodia, then I think smuggling will decline,” said Yim Pheang, head of the custom’s office at Chrey Thom, a regional border checkpoint in Kandal province’s Koh Thom district.
Higher global oil prices prompted Vietnam to raise gasoline prices over the weekend, the second time this year that Vietnam has made such a move.
Starting Sunday, gasoline prices were hiked 10 percent to 8,800 dong ($0.56) per liter and diesel prices were raised 18 percent to 6,500 dong ($0.41).
Gas prices in Cambodia are typically 30 percent to 40 percent higher than in Vietnam and Thailand, a situation that encourages rampant smuggling along the borders with both countries.
Yim Pheang said border officials at Chrey Thom have been working to combat smuggling, seizing between 300 and 400 gasoline containers per month in recent months.
Last week, the price of gasoline at the Vietnam border was 2,300 riel ($0.58) per liter, with smuggled gasoline selling in Cambodia at 2,800 riel ($0.70) per liter.
In Phnom Penh, Total and Caltex gas stations were selling liters of gas at the rate of 3,400 riel ($0.85).
Sok Kong, president of Sokimex, said last week that if the government does not reduce gas taxes, then smuggling will continue to be a problem. Taxes are now set at $344 per ton of gasoline and $140 per ton of diesel.
Kun Nhem, deputy director of the Ministry of Finance’s Customs and Excise Department, said there are no plans to raise the gas tax.
Petroleum expert Bin May Mialia warned that gasoline prices will continue to rise in Cambodia because international oil prices will probably not decline but will most likely continue rising. He recommended that the government look for ways to advise drivers on how to save gas.
(Additional reporting by The Associated Press)