Poipet City Taxi Drivers Protest New Checkpoint

Dozens of taxi drivers in Poipet City protested Monday against the creation of a new checkpoint where they are forced to pay costly bribes to transport goods that have been smuggled across the border from Thailand.

The group blocked National Road 5 in Banteay Meanchey province for an hour Monday morning to express their opposition to the addition of a fifth checkpoint on the highway in the border town’s Nimit commune, according to Din Puthy, president of the Cambodian Association for Informal Economy Development, which is representing the taxi drivers.

A contingent of moto-taxi drivers—who have been banned from picking up Cambodian workers returning from Thailand, to “maintain order” in the area—helped push the number of demonstrators to about 100.

Mr. Puthy said the aggrieved taxi drivers—who he admitted regularly transport goods that have been smuggled across the Thai border by other people—have to pay between 30,000 and 100,000 riel ($7.50 to $25) in bribes at each checkpoint.

“Previously, there were only four checkpoints, but now the authorities have created another one, which forces them to pay more and more,” he said.

Mr. Puthy said the drivers were happy to pay official taxes on the smuggled items, and called on officials to create a single customs checkpoint on the 45-km stretch of road between the international border and Serei Saophoan City to the east.

Poipet City Governor Ngor Mengchrun said the checkpoints were legal and had been approved by the Finance Ministry.

“We do not set up the checkpoints to seize their goods, but to educate them and advise them to pay taxes properly,” he said.

Provincial governor Kousoum Saroeuth said the taxi drivers had only themselves to blame for their new expenses.

“They complain about paying more, but it is they themselves who pay,” he said, refusing to say who was taking the money.

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