Right-Side Drivers Ordered To Do Conversions—Please

The government appears to be retreating from its earlier hard-line stance of threatening to confiscate cars that haven’t been converted to left-hand drive by Jan 1.

The government has been trying for two years to get people to stop driving right-hand-drive vehicles, and last Monday, drivers were ordered to take those vehicles off the road or risk losing them.

But on Friday, the Council of Ministers issued a statement saying that while officials still want right-hand-drive cars off the road, they won’t confiscate them.

“We changed a little bit on this,” said Penn Thol, spokesman for the Council of Ministers. “We will not confiscate them, but we request people to keep them at home” and not use them until they are converted.

An estimated 20,000 cars in Cambodia are equipped with right-hand drive, which officials say is dangerous in a country where people drive on the right side of the road.

The government banned the import of such cars in the early 1990s, although an unknown number have been smuggled in since the ban took effect.

That created two classes of right-hand-drive cars: legal ones for which taxes were paid prior to the ban, and illegal ones smuggled in after the ban, for which taxes were never paid.

Now the government wants all of the cars, legal and illegal, to be converted to left-hand drive, and it wants the tax evaders to pay what is owed.

The problem is in convincing people to do it. The cheapest conversion costs $500, and so far, only a couple of hundred right-hand-drive vehicles have been converted.

Penn Thol said the council understands that “with many thousand cars, [conversions] cannot be carried out 100 percent” right away.

“But step by step, right-hand-drive cars will be finished someday.”




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