Document Shows Hun Sen OK’d Okhna Tax

A document obtained from the Finance Ministry on Tuesday re­vealed that Prime Minister Hun Sen agreed earlier this month to tax holders of the prestigious Okhna title, which is granted to people who contribute more than $100,000 to develop the country.

The document, written by Fi­nance Minister Keat Chhon and signed Oct 3, proposed taxing Okh­­nas $10,000 a ­year for 15 years “in order to maintain the Okhna validity for life.” The tax would be used for the Com­mune Fund to promote grass­-roots de­velopment, the document said.

At the bottom of the document, the words “agree with the proposal” were written next to Hun Sen’s signature, with the hand­writ­ten date, Oct 9.

But after the Council of Min­is­ters meeting last week, Ngy Tayi, Fi­­­nance Ministry un­der­secretary of state, told reporters that Hun Sen “made it very clear that the gov­­ernment has no policy to tax Okh­nas.”

The proposal states, “In case of Okhna’s slowness, or if they do not pay the annual donation every year, they would automatically lose the Okhna title.” It adds, “There are about 200 Okhnas in the Kingdom of Cam­bodia at the present time, so if each Okhna pays [$10,000] a year, we would collect [$2 million] for the Com­mune Fund.”

The about-face apparently came af­­­ter a report Thursday in the Khmer-language newspaper Ras­mei Kampuchea (Light of Cam­bodia) exposing the proposed tax.

“The prime minister said there is no tax on Okhnas at all,” Ngy Tayi said Tuesday. “Maybe he changed his mind af­ter the Ras­mei Kampuchea news­paper re­peat­edly reported on the tax.”

CPP spokesman Khieu Kan­ha­rith said Tuesday that Hun Sen never agreed with the Okhna tax.

Hun Sen “got the news [of the tax] from the newspaper,” Khieu Kanharith said.

“At the Council of Min­isters, he said that it is not right to tax Okh­nas. He told the Min­istry of Fi­nance that the government must give thanks to people for giving money to develop the country.”

Khieu Kanharith said he had not seen the signed proposal.

Keat Chhon on Monday downplayed the proposed tax.

“It’s just an internal debate in the gov­ern­ment,” he said. “Aft­er the debate, we decided to veto” the tax.

Upon hearing of the proposed tax last week, some Okhnas ex­pressed dismay. “If I had known this condition, I would not have accepted the title Okh­na,” said businessman Mong Reththy. “It is a large amount.”

Sok Kong, president of Sok­i­mex, said last week it would be “impolite” to tax the title. “I am not a vegetable or other goods they can tax,” he said.

 

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