Premier Waives Border Fees For Clothes Vendors: Official

Prime Minister Hun Sen intervened Wednesday in a dispute between Banteay Meanchey provincial officials and second-hand clothes vendors that led this week to street scuffles—which were described as “anarchy”—at the Poipet border checkpoint, Deputy Gover­nor Em Phoanso­phal said.

On Monday, dozens of military police and immigration police officers clashed with more than 100 second-hand clothes traders when police blocked the vendors exporting their goods to Thailand. The vendors, who police say must now pay a tax to export their goods to Thailand, responded by attempting to tear down a metal barricade erected by police.

Hun Sen has waived the fees for the vendors, Em Phoansophal said by telephone Wednesday. “If there was no intervention from Samdech Hun Sen, we still would need more time for negotiations,” he said.

“It is good to end the anarchy,” he added.

Provincial authorities had demanded that vendors crossing the border pay 150 riel per kilogram of clothing because vendors use public streets to load and unload their stock. The fees would have added up to an estimated $76,000 a year, which would have helped build infrastructure in the province, Em Phoansophal said. The tax was not collected for years because corrupt officials accepted bribes instead, Em Phoansophal said Tuesday.

Neth Tep, a representative of the second-hand clothes vendors, said he normally exports 200 tons of used clothes per month.

“The anarchy would have continued if not for Samdech Hun Sen’s hand,” he said. “We would have lost more money if the [police] blockade continued,” he said.

Bun Hack, another second-hand clothes dealer, said the fee would have amounted to him paying more in tax than he could earn in profit from selling his merchandise in Thailand.

The standoff cost not only vendors but local workers who mend the clothing and prepare it for export, he said.




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