For the last two years, vendors in Svay Rieng town have lost business due to repeated floods that disrupted sales and left farmers too poor to buy much.
Now the vendors say the government is hurting them by raising their taxes. The higher tax rate, which was supposed to take effect Jan 1, is only now being enforced in the province, vendors say.
About 200 vendors have filed a complaint with the provincial taxation department protesting the increase, which for some means a tax bill double what they paid last year.
“Some people have been forced out of business because they can’t make good money like before,” vendor Tauch Savan said Sunday. “We remain in business, but we hardly make enough to send our children to school.”
Vendors met with tax officials last week to discuss their concerns, but no resolution was reached. If something isn’t done, the vendors say they will travel to Phnom Penh to protest further.
Tauch Savan, who sells cosmetics, said her taxes have jumped 25 percent, rising from 12,000 riel per month (about $3.07) to 15,000 riel (about $3.85).
Previous tax increases were only about 2 percent, the vendors say.
The higher taxes are being calculated on the amount of each vendor’s business. Vendors say about 40 local tax agents are monitoring the market to see how much money they take in. The vendors say they feel threatened by the agents. Vendors who don’t pay face up to three months in jail.
Svay Rieng Governor Hun Neng, older brother of Prime Minister Hun Sen, said he supports the protesters. Flooding has kept consumers poor, and vendors can’t make money, the governor said.
“We should not raise their taxes,” he said.