The rising price of gasoline in Cambodia is encouraging fuel smuggling at the Vietnam and Thai borders, a senior customs official from the Ministry of Finance warned Monday, in the wake of a seizure of some 100,000 liters of illegally imported gas.
“I think the smuggling increased when the price of gas in our country went up,” said Em Sitha, deputy director of the smuggling and investigation office for the ministry’s Customs and Excise Department.
The average price of gasoline in Cambodia has reached about $0.75 per liter, up from about $0.68 at this time last year. At the border, however, gasoline can be purchased for about $0.58 per liter, Em Sitha said, adding that the resulting market demand has pushed people into the illegal transport business.
“Each smuggler can make at least $100 every day,” he said.
Last week, Kompong Cham provincial police, court, customs and CamControl officials confiscated 100,000 liters of smuggled gas from six fuel stations in the province. Em Sitha said the stations will together be required to pay $40,800 tax on the confiscated gas, or about $0.41 per liter.
The price of gasoline is higher in Cambodia than in neighboring countries, largely as a result of government-imposed gasoline taxes, according to government and business officials. High fuel prices have often been cited as an impediment to foreign investment in Cambodia.
Last week, Finance Minister Keat Chhon said the tax on gasoline is about $80 per ton.
Due to the long stretches of unpatrolled areas along the borders, police are hard-pressed to stop the influx of smuggled fuel, Em Sitha said.
Kompong Cham provincial governor Chheang Am said the province has boosted efforts to crack down on illegally imported fuel. But, he said, “It will be very difficult to make the activity end in a short time.”