Residents in Koh Kong on Monday demonstrated against the government’s impending deadline for payment of motor vehicle import duties, complaining that the tax is unreasonably high, the province’s governor said.
The crackdown comes amid heavy donor pressure on Cam-bodia’s new government, nicknamed by the CPP “the economic government,” to wean itself off millions of dollars of aid money.
Koh Kong Governor Rong Plamkesan on Tuesday said that he met with a demonstrators’ representative after about a hundred residents gathered outside his provincial office.
Protesters were upset over the Jan 1 enforcement deadline for vehicle import duties, which range from hundreds of dollars for motorcycles to thousands of dollars for automobiles, depending on the size of the vehicle’s engine.
The protest ended without incident after the two sides struck an agreement to form a commission to investigate a reduced tax scale based on the age of the vehicle, Rong Plamkesan said. Demon-strators also suggested that the government collect the tax from importers and not consumers, the governor said.
Residents in Battambang, which like Koh Kong is a conduit for many vehicles smuggled into Cambodia from Thailand, on Sunday said they cannot afford to pay the import fees.
“My salary cannot even support my living standard, so where am I going to find the money to pay the tax?” one 39-year-old Battambang teacher asked.
Some people said they would leave their vehicles at home rather than be forced to pay the tax.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak on Tuesday defended the police enforcement, saying “the economic government’ should get a lot of money for the budget.”
He said the police would set up checkpoints, levy fines and impound violators’ vehicles.
(Reporting by Chuon Phally in Battambang, Kay Kimsong and Marc Levy in Phnom Penh)