Despite Agreements, Police Struggle Against Car Smugglers

National Police Chief Hok Lundy returned this week from a three-day trip to Thailand, where he met with Thai authorities to dis­cuss smuggling through Cambodia’s borders.

Cambodia and Thailand signed an agreement in June to encourage information ex­changes on smuggling, especially of cars. The two have signed several border security agree­ments said Mao Chan­dara, chief of staff for the Ministry of Interior.

“To act against smuggling, both parties agreed to share information with each other and find a way to crack down together,” Mao Chandara said.

Stolen right-hand-drive cars from Thailand continually find their way to Cambodia, even though they are outlawed here.

“I think most of the cars sold to Phnom Penh buyers were stolen from people in Thailand. We were ordered to work against [smuggling], but we can’t do it. It’s not easy work,” said Rath Srieng, military police chief for Ban­teay Meanchey province, one of the main routes for smuggling.

Cambodia has four international border checkpoints with Thai­land, said Pen Siman, director of the customs department at the Ministry of Finance. Hundreds of cars are smuggled into Cambodia every year across 400 km of border and through “hundreds of illegal gateways,” he said. Pen Siman believes those illegal gateways are impossible to close.

“We did not open them, so we cannot close them,” he said.

Smuggled cars sell for $10,000-$50,000, he said. That means the government loses out on at least $8,000 in taxes it would collect on a legally imported $10,000 car.

Despite revenue loss, “there is not a proper policy or any plans to crack down on smuggling,” he said. And while the “government keeps losing millions of dollars yearly,” smug­gling rings are protected by “high-ranking officials and powerful military [leaders].”

Mao Chandara dismissed the accusation as “likely just ru­mors.”

“There is no clear information about any smuggling supported by high-ranking police officials or powerful military,” he said.

Most smugglers go through the re­gions of Oddar Meanchey, O’Smach, Anlong Veng or Preah Vihear, Rath Srieng said.

Hok Lundy met with his Thai counterpart Police General Porn­sak Durongkhaviboon, the Bang­kok Post reported. During the visit Pornsak said he was concerned about the continued in­crease in car smuggling and its connection to gang activity. The Thai police promised to help train Cambo­dian police.

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