Extortion at Border Crossing Still an Issue, Official Claims

Despite a letter of complaint to Prime Minister Hun Sen about an operation involving local authorities freeing vehicles he claimed were im­properly detained by corrupt officials, Koh Kong Provincial Gov­ernor Yuth Phouthong said on Sun­day that extortion continues at the Cham Yeam border crossing with Thailand.

Last week, the provincial governor said he mounted an operation that led to the release of 21 fruit trucks that were being detained by border officials who were seeking, on average, $65 per vehicle to allow them cross the border.

The governor told the prime minister in his letter that such activities were having a bad impact on the province and the government.

“We are trying to reduce corruption, but how do we reduce it if the official commit acts like this,” the governor said Sunday.

Mr Phouthong also criticized the that fact that officials from the Interior Ministry, which control the border police, nor the Ministry of Fi­nance, which controls customs officials, had yet sent representatives to the province to investigate.

“Those officials do not cooperate with me. If they cooperated with me, such problems would never happen,” the governor said. “So far there are no officials from those ministries.”

However, Kung Sam, director of the Koh Kong provincial taxation department, said that officials from the general department of tax, and from the Interior Ministry, had been to the province and recommended that customs and police slash the charges they levy on fruit traders at the international border crossing.

Chief of police at the Cham Yean border gate Sao Sinthuon said that proper “tax processing” had been under way since Thursday.

He also said that if the governor still believed there was a problem with extortion, he might be referring to customs officials and not his bor­der police officers.

“Paying tax has reached four days already, including Sunday. I always cooperate with the governor and report to him regularly,” Mr Sin­thuon said.

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