Police Seize Tour Buses From Vietnam Suspected of Smuggling

Police in Svay Rieng province on Sunday stopped three Phnom Penh-bound tour buses from Vietnam suspected of smuggling shoes and clothing into Cambodia, officials said Monday.

Ung Sam Ol, head of the provincial police force’s economic crimes bureau, said authorities stopped the buses at about 9 p.m. in Svay Rieng City—several kilometers past the border—after growing suspicious about their cargo, though he refused to explain who or what had tipped them off.

“The reason we stopped the buses is because we suspected that they contained illegal goods,” Mr. Sam Ol said Monday morning.

“When we stopped them, we asked for tax receipts [issued at the border], but they did not have them,” he said, adding that two of the buses were owned by the Phuong Heng company and the third by a transportation firm named Truong Trinh.

Although it is widely suspected that tourist buses are used to smuggle goods between Vietnam and Cambodia on a daily basis, reports of seizures such as Sunday’s are rare.

Mr. Sam Ol said the buses were being held at the provincial customs office, where they would be inspected by customs officials and Keang Suntaro, a deputy prosecutor at the Svay Rieng Provincial Court.

The three drivers were questioned at the customs office Monday, he said.

“We do not know what kinds of goods they are because we have not yet opened them, but the drivers said they were clothes and shoes,” he said. “If we find out that they were really carrying illegal goods, the bus companies will be fined.”

Contacted late Monday afternoon, Mr. Suntaro said the inspection was ongoing.

“We are checking the goods,” he said. “I don’t know if they are illegal or legal; only the customs officials would know.”

Khieu Saroeun, deputy director of the provincial customs office, declined to comment.

Brigadier General Long Sreng, deputy director of the Interior Ministry’s economic crimes police department, said he did not know how the three buses were caught.

But Brig. Gen. Sreng said he suspected that local police had been on alert following a traffic accident in the province last month involving a tour bus and a van ferrying garment workers that killed 18 people. Local media reported that the bus had been smuggling goods at the time of the crash.

An employee who answered the listed phone number for the Phuong Heng company in Phnom Penh refused to give his position and declined to comment on case. He said the company was owned by a man named Phuong Heng but refused to provide contact information.

Representatives for the Truong Trinh company could not be reached.

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