Customs officials in Phnom Penh have seized 40,000 jute sacks from the company that runs Battambang’s jute factory, charging that the bags were illegally imported from Thailand, not made in Cambodia.
The company, Anglo Cambodian Holdings Ltd, insists the bags were made in Battambang and factory workers are signing letters of protest demanding that the bags be released.
Customs Director In Saroeun said Tuesday the department was tipped off by an anonymous letter saying the sacks had been smuggled in via Banteay Meanchey.
After learning from Battambang Second Deputy Governor Nam Tum that the factory had not been operating for months, In Saroeun said, customs officials decided to confiscate the sacks until an investigation is done. Thai-made sacks will be brought in for comparison, he said.
Thierry de Roland Peel, Anglo Cambodian’s joint managing director, confirmed Tuesday that the factory had not been operating since before the July 26 elections. But he said the confiscated jute sacks, which were on their way to a buyer when customs seized the truck on Thursday, were from the factory’s stock.
The seizure comes just as the factory is beginning to develop a domestic market, a major problem for Anglo Cambodian since it took over the ailing state-run factory in 1996, Peel said. More than 200,000 sacks have been sold domestically and the company is looking at exporting its bags.
While In Saroeun said illegally imported sacks would hurt domestic workers, Peel countered the seizure of the goods was hurting the factory’s 540 employees, as well as the thousands of farmers who supply jute to the factory.
“Everyone in the factory is fuming,” he said. “They know that bags sold for money pays salaries.”
Peel said employees were signing a protest letter to In Saroeun.