Defense Ministry Official Asks For Military-Plate Tax Exemption

A Defense Ministry official has requested that vehicles bearing Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) license plates be exempt from paying the country’s road tax, noting that a recent increase in inspections by tax officials could hurt “military officers’ feelings.”

Lieutenant General Chao Phearun, director-general of the ministry’s general department of technical equipment, who wrote to the Finance Ministry on Saturday, said inspections of vehicles with RCAF plates should cease while officials from both ministries discuss an exemption.

“The examination of small cars has to be suspended to solve the problems,” he said Sunday. “I think the road tax should not be imposed if we think about the national interest.”

Lt. Gen. Phearun said the military was not always able to purchase vehicles for officers, who are forced to use their own money to purchase work cars. Because the roughly $500 annual road tax is not imposed on official military vehicles, he said, those officers should also have the tax waived.

“If the road tax is required, there will be an impact on the military officers’ feelings. So we should find a basic regulation to implement that would not affect the national and military interest,” he said.

In his own letter to the Finance Ministry alongside Lt. Gen. Phearun’s, National Military Police Commander Sao Sokha says he would be open to allowing Defense Ministry officials to negotiate with tax officials over a new road-tax rate.

Kong Vibol, director-general of the Finance Ministry’s general department of taxation, could not be reached Sunday.

Opposition CNRP lawmaker Son Chhay said that Lt. Gen. Phearun was correct in noting that the road tax is not imposed on official military vehicles, but that the use of RCAF plates on privately owned vehicles was against the law.

“It is a mistake for the Ministry of Defense to write such a letter,” Mr. Chhay said, explaining that the recently passed road law prohibits the use of military plates on privately owned vehicles.

“It’s not a problem if the transportation belongs to the state or to the ministry, but I think this letter was probably sent because the minister of defense, Tea Banh, has enjoyed issuing these license plates to a number of people so they can use them to avoid paying import and road taxes,” he said.

Military police spokesman Kheng Tito rejected Mr. Chhay’s interpretation of the law.

“It is not illegal, because they use their private money to buy a car to serve our collective work. All those cars are taxed legally, and so they also pay the tax on the road too,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Alex Willemyns)

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