The Ministry of Finance has presented a bill of $1.36 million to Prince Norodom Chakrapong for unpaid taxes and fees on his now-defunct Royal Phnom Penh Airways, government officials said Thursday.
In yet another blow to the harried royalist party, Tuesday’s demand for Prince Chakrapong to pay the five-year-old tax bill was followed on Thursday by his withdrawal as a nominee for the position of Funcinpec’s secretary-general, party members said.
Prince Chakrapong could not be reached for comment.
Kong Vibol, Funcinpec member and first secretary of state for the Ministry of Finance, said Prince Chakrapong owes five years’ worth of unpaid taxes on the airline, of which he was chairman, as well as navigation and landing fees.
The prince has ignored multiple requests for payment, he added.
Kong Vibol told the prince in a letter on Tuesday to pay $1.36 million accrued between April 2000 and June 30, 2005, and that failure to do so could result in legal action against the prince and his former company or both.
“This is a duty of government to collect debts from debtors,” Kong Vibol said.
“If the prince has no money to repay the debt, he will face the law,” he said.
Funcinpec’s recently sacked co-minister of defense Nhiek Bun Chhay, who publicly criticized Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh’s nomination of Prince Chakrapong for the secretary-general’s position, declined to say whether there was any link between the demand that the prince pay taxes and the prince’s nomination withdrawal.
“The prince owed business debts, which he was supposed to pay off,” Nhiek Bun Chhay said.
“Party members are not happy with his personality. It harms the good cooperation between Funcinpec and the CPP. Funcinpec members will feel warmer without him,” he said.
Nhiek Bun Chhay is also a candidate for the secretary-general position.
Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay commented that the timing of the tax demand smacked of politics.
“It’s very strange that the ministry publicly announced the demand for payments now. I believe there are many others who owe the government more than Chakrapong owes,” he said.
“I don’t blame Chakrapong for not paying taxes. I blame [Finance Minister] Keat Chhon of being incapable of running his own ministry and being reluctant to apply the law.”
Son Chhay said the ruling CPP must make clear that its aim is not to punish an already beleaguered Funcinpec or dictate the royalists’ secretary-general appointment.
Kong Vibol maintained that his request for taxes had nothing to do with politics.
Seng Vanny, director of the administration department at the Civil Aviation Secretariat, said the prince also owed interest on his tax bill and may be asked to pay that too.
“We have tried many strategies to claim that debt, but it didn’t work,” he said.
“If a company owes the government for a long time, it will hurt the country’s economy.”
(Additional reporting by Lor Chandara and Whitney Kvasager)