Senior officials from the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Commerce declined to comment Monday on a threat by Prime Minister Hun Sen to combine the two if they fail to resolve an ongoing conflict between customs and Camcontrol officials.
During a speech Thursday, the prime minister said the conflict between the Ministry of Finance’s customs and excise department and the Ministry of Commerce’s import and export inspection and fraud repression department, known as Camcontrol, regarding their competing areas of jurisdiction, was giving him a “headache.”
He ordered both departments to reach a solution or else.
“Your relationship is giving the premier a headache…. If you are stupid, let us combine both ministries together to end [the problems] faster,” Mr Hun Sen said, adding that neither department could guarantee the quality of goods imported alone.
And while the government will continue, directors of department can always be changed, he added.
“Sometimes there can be different directors but the Prime Minister and the government are the same.”
Wrapping up his speech, the premier dissuaded ministry officials from discussing further the problems between customs and Camcontrol.
“If the prime minister has already commented it is not important to provide more [information]. It is the prime minister’s business, which is not your business,” he added.
Neither Mak Pichrith, director of Camcontrol, nor Pen Simon, director of the Customs and Exercise department, could be reached for comment Monday.
Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh said he was too busy to answer questions before he hung up the phone. Finance Minister Keat Chhon could not be reached for comment.
Deputy director for Camcontrol Klouk Chuon said he couldn’t provide more information on the dispute because “it is a very sensitive issue,” but that the Ministry of Finance has been working on finding a solution.
“[We] have the confidential mechanisms between the Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Finance, and this is a minor problem,” Mr Klouk Chuon said.
“If [Mr] Hun Sen said so, we always take action. Normally, if there is a mistake, it always has a solution,” he added.
SRP president Sam Rainsy said by telephone Monday that corruption and bulky bureaucracy prevented the two departments from working efficiently together.
He also criticized the government for failing to provide clear direction regarding the powers and the responsibilities of each department.
“I think both these institutions…must be reformed because both organizations are involved with corruption and bureaucracy, and their competency is overlapping,” Mr Sam Rainsy said, adding that this was symptomatic of the whole administration.
Several other senior officials contacted Monday declined to comment on the issue.