Kompong Cham provincial governor Lun Lim Thai on Tuesday ordered authorities to step up long-running efforts to reduce the smuggling of unprocessed rubber resin from the province into Vietnam.
Those smuggling resin to processors across the border should be more actively pursued and instead forced to use local processors who they are depriving of their livelihoods, he said at a meeting at provincial hall.
“Our measure is to bring back the smugglers to sell their resin through the official checkpoints,” he said, explaining that resin processors in Cambodia were struggling to make ends meet due to smugglers.
“If they continue to smuggle the resin, the small and legal rubber processing plants will not have resin for processing, causing people to become unemployed.”
Mr. Lim Thai added that he was prepared to take disciplinary action against provincial authorities who continue to facilitate or turn a blind eye to smuggling.
“They will be removed from their ranks and positions if they fail to follow this advice,” he said.
Kompong Cham provincial trade department director Sieng Pengsrieng, who attended the meeting, said he did not think the smuggling of resin was a major problem, but said he nevertheless supported the move.
“The amount of smuggling occurring is low, but the government has ordered us to curb it because it affects people’s livelihoods, the labor force and tax revenue,” he said.
Mak Kimhong, the president of the Association for Rubber Development of Cambodia, said the move would help shore up the local industry in a tough time.
“There is not much demand on the international market…because of the economic crisis in the E.U. [European Union] and U.S.,” he said, explaining that the global price of rubber had steadily slipped from $5,000 to $2,200 per ton since 2011.
Philippe Monnin, a rubber agronomist and project consultant for the Groupe Agriculturel Francais de Developpement, said he was skeptical the latest effort to stem smuggling would be different from those in the past.
He said the issue had been causing problems for resin processors in the province for years.
“This is not news at all. Everyone has known this for a long time,” he said, confirming that smuggling caused problems for processors who were already competing over a relatively small pool of raw rubber.
“In Kompong Cham, you have more than 30 processing plants, so you already have overcapacity of processing compared to production,” Mr. Monnin said.
Mr. Lim Thai, for his part, said that due to the black-market nature of resin smuggling, he was not sure precisely how much more rubber would flow into the hands of local processors if smuggling were stopped or how much money was being lost.
“You have to know there are a lot of things happening along the border where all types of goods are being smuggled,” he said. “These corridors are like shadows.”
(Additional reporting by Alex Willemyns)