Kompong Chhnang Governor Sou Phirun has ordered an investigation into illegal checkpoints in his province amid criticism that those erecting the barriers are significantly impacting business people trading goods along National Route 5, police said.
Admitting that the province is one of the worst areas, Touch Naruth, Kompong Chhnang province police chief, said Wednesday the governor is looking into the matter. and police have concluded that the checkpoints were created by military forces, not local police.
“We have no checkpoint [extortion] by police, but other armed forces do,” Touch Naruth said.
Touch Naruth said police have respected Prime Minister Hun Sen’s 1997 order to remove of all illegal checkpoints.
Deputy National Military Police Commander Vong Phisen said Wednesday the military does not have checkpoints along Route 5.
Mobile customs, designed to capture smugglers, are not permitted at the same location every day, Vong Phisen said, but some stay at fixed locations for one or two years. He said military police have been patrolling Route 5 for illegal checkpoints, but are not finding them.
Fruit seller Mom Vy said he encounters many checkpoints while transporting fruit from Thailand to Phnom Penh on Route 5.
He said he has not made a profit for months because of the numerous checkpoints from Sampov Loun district in Battambang province, where he buys his goods, to Phnom Penh.
“I was going to stop [this work], but if I stop, I have nothing to feed my children,” he said last week. “I hate these bloodsucking officials. They are sucking blood from people for their own purpose.”
Similarly, two men driving a truck from Thailand to Phnom Penh told of how they showed customs officials legitimate documents indicating their company had already paid tax to the government, but they still had to pay a bribe. “If we did not pay them, they would have stopped us longer,” one of the workers said.
Fruit trader Chhou Ny added: “Businessmen are happier to pay if it’s for the government budget rather than giving a bribe into [corrupt officials] pockets.”