Gov’t: NW Gas Prices Higher Due to Thais

A recent crackdown by Thai au­thorities on gasoline smuggling is the likely cause behind the sharp increase in gas prices in Battambang and Banteay Mean­chey provinces and in Pailin, Cambodian officials in the northwest are saying.

Two weeks ago in Pailin, one liter of gas was just $0.25, but now the price has shot up to close to $0.50 per liter. Prices in Bat­tam­bang have also risen, but only from about $0.30 to $0.35, according to car and motorcycle drivers.

Taxi driver Nuth Phon said he now charges car passengers $7.50—a rise of $1.25 from two weeks ago—to go from Phnom Penh to Bat­tam­bang.

In addition to higher gas prices, there is more competition among taxi drivers for passengers with an increased number of taxis on the road, taxi driver Van Thorn said.

“I am worried that I won’t be able to make any money,” Nuth Phon said. “The passengers are complaining of the higher price, and I have tried to explain the reason.”

Cambodian customs official Pen Siman said it is illegal to im­port gasoline overland from Thai­land. The rising prices are not be­cause of a customs crackdown by Cambodian officials, he said.

Instead, Pen Siman said, the rea­son probably lies in recent Thai enforcement to stop Thais from illegally im­porting gasoline by sea to Thai provinces near the Cam­bo­dian border. Some of that gas normally makes its way illegally into Cambodia, Pen Siman said.

Beginning in 1996, the government allowed former Khmer Rouge soldiers along the border to import gasoline without paying taxes. However, that practice has ended, Pen Siman said.

Kim Hen, a customs official in Battambang province, said officials do not have the resources to halt all illegal gas imports. But he said the government confiscated two trucks Feb 6 that were at­tempting to smuggle 35,000 liters of gasoline.

The trucks were sent to Phnom Penh Feb 7 for further in­vesti­gation by authorities, he said.

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