Over 14 Tons of Smuggled Items Found on Buses From Vietnam

A police search of three buses that were smuggling goods from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh has turned up more than 14 tons of clothes, paint thinner and other materials, officials said Tuesday.

The three buses—two belonging to the Phuong Heng company and one to transportation firm Phuong Trinh—were impounded in Svay Rieng province Sunday on suspicion of carrying goods across the border without paying tax, a scheme believed to be common.

“We found that, for all those goods, no tax was paid,” said Ung Sam Ol, the province’s economic crimes police chief, adding that the cargo consisted mostly of clothes, shoe soles, paint and paint thinner.

Mr. Sam Ol said he was unaware of who would be punished or how, noting that it would be the job of customs officials, and declined to answer further questions.

The deputy director of the Svay Rieng customs office, Khieu Saroeun, could not be reached. Contact details for the director, Lonh Vannak, were not available.

Dozens of buses pass through the province’s Bavet City border checkpoint each day—often with goods aboard that by law are subject to tax. The buses impounded on Sunday were stopped not at the border, but several kilometers after passing through.

Hou Vathnak, the deputy provincial governor, said customs officials were vigilant in their work at the border but unable to detect all tax-evading cargo.

“Customs officials check them but it is a trick of businesspeople to hide the goods from our authorities,” he said. “We have strong controls on illegal goods and we have been implementing these controls.”

Long Sreng, deputy director of the Interior Ministry’s economic crimes department, where all customs crimes are lodged, defended the government’s methods for catching undeclared cargo on buses. He said more consistent roadside inspections would inspire officials to set up their own illegal inspection points.

“We cannot put more controls on the goods along the road because it could create more anarchic checkpoints,” he said.

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