Government Denies Report of Tax on Okhnas

Reports that a hefty tax would be levied on holders of the prestigious title Okhna—which is normally granted to dignitaries in recognition of their services to society—was denied by government officials on Friday.

According to one senior official at the Ministry of Economy and Finance and a report in the Khmer-language newspaper Rasmei Kampuchea (Light of Cambodia) on Thursday, the Finance Ministry was planning to ask Okhna title-holders to pay a tax of $10,000 per year for 15 years.

The 15-year payment would ensure the Okhnas keep their title for life while the money taken in tax would be directed into the commune management budget, Rasmei Kampuchea reported. The plan to tax Okhnas was sent to Prime Minister Hun Sen earlier this month, the newspaper also claimed.

“Hun Sen made it very clear that the government has no policy to tax Okhnas,” said Ngy Tayi, undersecretary of state at the Finance Ministry, after attending the weekly Council of Ministers meeting on Friday.

“There is no more concern or wonder about it. It is finished,” Ngy Tayi told reporters.

However, Finance Ministry Undersecretary of State So Victor said on Thursday he had seen the tax plan but it was not under his responsibility and, therefore, declined to comment further. Finance Ministry Secretary of State Ouk Rabun also denied on Thursday that such a plan even existed.

Several top businessmen who hold Okhna titles also said on Thursday they knew nothing of the planned tax scheme and bristled at the idea of paying for the coveted national honor which was bestowed up them by King Norodom Siha­nouk with no strings attached.

Sok Kong, president of Sokimex, said it would be “impolite” to tax the title.

“I am not a vegetable or other goods they can tax,” he said.

Commodities kingpin Mong Reththy said he had read the report in Rasmei Kampuchea but knew nothing more.

Mong Reththy also suggested that if Okhnas were expected to pay $10,000 tax to the nation then ministers, secretaries of state and under secretaries of state should also contribute to the national well-being.

“We are all in the same boat. We should help row the boat together and not put the leg into the river,” said Mong Reththy.

“If I had known this condition I would not have accepted the title Okhna,” Mong Reththy said. “It is a large amount.”

Okhna Kong Triv, director of British American Tobacco and other business ventures, said he would be willing to pay a tax if it was “reasonable.”


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