PM Orders Government to Raise Efforts in Fighting Smuggling

Prime Minister Hun Sen has issued an appeal for government officials to strengthen cooperation to prevent and combat the rampant smuggling of goods in and out of the country, causing the loss of much-needed tax revenue.

The government has issued multiple orders over the years for officials to take measures to prevent smuggling across the border, but they have gone largely unimplemented, according to the statement signed by Mr. Hun Sen on Friday.

“Previously, the Royal Government has issued subsequent sub-decrees, directives or circulars with the purpose of enhancing the effectiveness of management and reform of the economy and public finance, particularly in terms of cooperation in preventing and combating all forms of smuggling,” the prime minister said in the statement.

“However, the Royal Government has also noticed that the effectiveness of the prevention and combating…has not yet increased to its full potential. Besides directly affecting the national budget revenue, smuggling has caused unfair business competition,” the statement continued.

Efforts at the national and provincial level to combat smuggling are also undermined by the involvement of some officials, said Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan.

“Cases have happened in terms of conspiracy and intervention by some customs officials using their power so [smugglers] can avoid paying tax to the government,” he said.

“There are still some loopholes. That’s why the royal government has issued another order to showcase its stance that we are no longer ignoring or soft” on smuggling.

Mr. Siphan said he could not offer an estimate of the amount of national revenue lost due to smuggling. Officials at the Finance Ministry could not be reached for comment.

In June, authorities caught three buses carrying 14 tons of smuggled clothes, paint thinner and other materials from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh. Though it is suspected that goods are regularly smuggled on tour buses and via other methods, reports of seizures remain relatively rare.

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