Although crackdowns on gasoline smuggling have curbed the traffic in the northwest, the Vietnamese border continues to be an easy target for smugglers, officials said.
“[Gasoline smuggling] is down 30 percent compared to last year, and the decrease is because of our frequent crackdowns,” Customs Department Director Pen Siman said of the northwest.
Nonetheless, the smuggling across the Vietnamese border “is still the same,” Pen Siman said.
Pen Siman said he based his estimates on the number of arrests and by comparing gas stations’ reserves to the amount of taxes they have paid
The trafficking traditionally picks up during the annual floods because gas-runners can escape via the many waterways that run across Cambodia’s borders, Pen Siman said. This year’s droughts may have helped police against the smugglers, he added.
“It is hard to control because there are many ways to traffic on a waterway. But this year, I haven’t been so worried because most of the flooding hasn’t been so big,” Pen Siman said.
Gasoline smugglers load bikes and taxis with cans of fuel and carry them into town, where the cans are dispersed to avoid national taxes, authorities say. Some villagers claim to have seen entire convoys of smugglers creeping across the borders at night. Northwest authorities were glad to hear about the reported reduction and eager to credit new teams of roving customs officials.
“We have been cracking down every day. Our mobile customs are moving around areas along the Cambodian-Thai border in Phnom Proeuk, Sampov Luon and Kamreang districts,” Battambang provincial Deputy Customs Chief Kim Hen said.
Authorities were concerned smugglers might have already shifted their techniques to avoid detection, Kim Hen said. “They still are smuggling, because there are many illegal crossings along the border and there are a lot of ways to get through.”
Kim Hen said.
“Right now, they at least have no armed forces accompanying them.”