Koh Kong Provincial Governor Yuth Phouthang has written to Prime Minister Hun Sen complaining about government officials stationed at the Cham Yeam border crossing with Thailand who are extorting bribes from fruit traders who have had their vehicles detained until they paid.
The governor said in his letter that he used his own authorities who descended on the border crossing and removed 21 vehicles that were being detained by officials at the border gate.
“After receiving information about officials stationed at Cham Yeam International Checkpoint extorting money from fruit vendors and putting illegal checkpoints on the street to demand money from fruit vendors, provincial authorities checked into this and impounded 21 cars [that had been detained by border officials] on June 8,” the governor wrote in his letter to the prime minister.
“According to questions and answers, those vendors spent much money on customs and competent forces stationed at [Cham Yeam]… with an average expense of 270,000 riel [around $65] per vehicle,” Mr Phouthang wrote.
“This collusion…badly impacts the provincial and government image,” he added in the letter, which also estimated that on average 80 to 100 vehicles per day have been detained since earlier this year.
Mr Phouthang could not be contacted for comment on Wednesday.
Hak Sokhay, a member of the premier’s cabinet staff, said the prime minister was aware of the Koh Kong governor’s letter.
“The Prime Minister ordered the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of the Interior to take immediate action to solve the problem,” Mr Sokhay said.
Contacted by telephone on Wednesday, Sao Sinthuon, director of Cham Yean International Checkpoint, denied having ordered border officials to extort money from fruit traders.
He added that he was appointed to his position in November 2008, but that a great deal of the work at the checkpoint is still done by “old methods” implemented by a former border gate director, since retired.
“I am not scared by the provincial governor’s current report to Prime Minister Hun Sen… I always cooperate with the governor,” he said.