New Standards Outlined for Customs Officials

On the heels of Friday’s drug bust, in which five Sihanoukville customs officials were charged with drug trafficking, nearly 50 customs officials met at the Sun­way Hotel on Monday to learn the new rules the Customs De­partment must adopt to meet international standards.

“The Customs Department has played a key role in management and coordination in the development of international trading,” Lay Rithy, deputy director for the Customs and Excise Depart­ment, said in a prepared statement.

“As a member of the re­gion and the world customs system, Cambodia must learn a new strategy,” he said.

Customs Department Director Pen Siman was scheduled to speak at the meeting, but did not attend. Pen Sarath, deputy chief of the Sihanoukville Customs bureau and Pen Siman’s brother, was one of five officials arrested Friday.

Lay Rithy left abruptly after delivering his speech. He ignored reporters on his way out.

The session, sponsored by the Japan International Cooper­ation Agen­cy and Japan Customs, in­troduced officials to the Asean Har­­monized Tariff Nomenclature and the Harmonizing System—a goods classification system used by 190 countries for customs, tariffs and trade statistics.

Hiroto Ishibashi, a JICA adviser in the Customs Department, said the hope is that international standards will stem corruption here.

“The customs workers have no skill,” Ishibashi said in an interview. “If we introduce international standards, nobody can corrupt. Our job here is to strengthen the Customs Department.”

Customs officials do not know how to make businessmen pay the official tax, one customs official said. “I don’t know if the new system can stop corruption,” the official said. “But when we all understand the system correctly, mistakes will be reduced.”

To meet the requirements of Asean and the World Trade Organization, Cambodia is required to adhere by international customs standards. The new system was set up to promote transparency, consistency and uniformity in the classification of goods for the global market.


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