In a speech dealing with rice exports, Prime Minister Hun Sen briefly warned officials to make sure no illegal checkpoints impede the transport of the grain or any other product.
“For all the relevant agencies, make sure…that illegal checkpoints are not taking place,” Mr Hun Sen said. “Regarding illegal checkpoints, not only for the rice, paddy or others: It should not be taking place.”
Finance Minister Keat Chhon made similar comments before Mr Hun Sen’s roughly two-hour speech in the capital.
The comments echoed a call made by Mr Hun Sen in December 2004, when he ordered provincial officials to eliminate the police practice of demanding payments from taxi and truck drivers on major roads.
Reached by telephone yesterday, human rights workers from Adhoc said illegal checkpoints continued to plague Cambodia’s roads while provincial officials denied their existence.
Soum Chankea, Adhoc coordinator for Banteay Meanchey province, said authorities regularly asked for bribes of 3,000 riel, or about $0.75, at numerous checkpoints along the border.
“They are playing the role as the government agency and then they try to take the money from taxi or trader,” he said, referring to local officials.
Nget Channara, Adhoc provincial coordinator for Svay Rieng province, said there were many checkpoints in the province, including at locations along the Vietnamese border. Officials in Svay Rieng and Banteay Meanchey provinces denied the existence of illegal checkpoints.
“We are monitoring that and there are no illegal checkpoints,” said provincial governor Chieng Am. “I have never received any complaint from people about this problem.”
Hun Hean, police chief for Banteay Meanchey province, reacted similarly.
“There are no illegal checkpoints. The checkpoint is used only for the illegal import of pork and chicken that [Mr Hun Sen] has banned,” he said before hanging up.
About 100 taxi drivers from Banteay Meanchey province staged a protest there at the end of June, claiming that an excessive number of traffic police checkpoints on National Roads 5 and 6 were impeding their ability to make a living.