City Hall is looking to join forces with the Ministry of Economics and Finance in order to privatize the collection of taxes from slaughterhouses in Phnom Penh by awarding the job to a businesswoman whose activities sparked protests among market vendors last year.
In an Aug 2 letter to Finance Minister Keat Chhon, Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema said there are 19 slaughterhouses in the city’s eight districts, and that awarding the collection of their taxes to a private company would make the process easier.
Slaughterhouse owners say the proposal is a maneuver to extort more money from them.
Roth Sopheap, the owner of Roth Sopheap Company, wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cabinet late last year, asking that her company be authorized to collect the taxes.
In June 2010, hundreds of O’Russei market vendors protested outside Mr Hun Sen’s home, demanding that fees charged by Ms Sopheap’s company, which had a security contract with the market, be nixed. The fee was canceled a week later.
That same month, Mr Chhon wrote to Mr Chuktema asking him to provide details about the number of slaughterhouses in the city, as the ministry wished to privatize the collection of their taxes.
It was unclear yesterday why the Ministry of Finance is lining up a private company to collect tax from slaughterhouses. Officials at the Ministry of Finance could not be reached and An Neang, deputy cabinet chief at City Hall, said he was unaware of the how the collection would work.
Slaughterhouse owners in Russei Keo and Meanchey districts said they routinely paid taxes to the Ministry of Agriculture and Finance, and that bringing a private firm into the fold could create a conflict with the government’s tax agency.
Mam Sotha, a slaughterhouse owner in Meanchey district, said a meeting had been called with the Department of Animal Health Production at the Agriculture Ministry, but that none of the abattoir owners were willing to go along with the privatization proposal.
“It is a way for this private company to extort money from us,” Mr Sotha said.