Taxi Drivers Block Checkpoint In Poipet to Protest New Tax

Taxi drivers staged a large protest Wednesday at a customs checkpoint in Poipet City over customs officials’ demands for what the protesters said was an exorbitant tax on a small load of goods.

At the checkpoint Wednesday, more than 50 taxi drivers blocked the road for an hour and demanded the release of a co-worker’s car after customs officials impounded it earlier in the week because the driver did not pay the proper tax on goods he was transporting.

Sem Yon, 35, said he had his Toyota Camry impounded on Saturday at about 4:30 p.m. for not paying customs officials up to $500 for transporting about 100 kg of dried chili peppers from Poipet City to Banteay Meanchey provincial town.

“The customs officers approached and blocked my car when I arrived at the post. They said I must pay a tax based on the amount of goods I am transporting, but they didn’t say how much I should pay on the chili peppers. They just said I have to pay around $300 to $500,” he said.

Mr. Yon said he refused to pay the fines at a mobile customs post in Phsar Kandal commune’s Kon Damrey village and tried to ask customs officers to release his car, but they refused.

“I asked them for three or four days,” he said.

Then on Wednesday, at least 50 taxi drivers brought their cars to the same checkpoint near National Road 5 and blocked the road for an hour before officials agreed to release Mr. Yon’s impounded car.

“When they [the taxi drivers] strongly complained, my car was released, and I didn’t pay anything,” Mr. Yon said.

Chan Kosal, deputy provincial police chief, confirmed that a protest took place Wednesday, but he declined to elaborate on the reason.

Starting in early November, customs officers along Cambodia’s borders were instructed to increase their efforts to properly inspect and tax products coming into the country in order to cut down on smuggling of goods and increase state revenue. Businesspeople have said that the new enforcement regime has already contributed to a noticeable increase in the cost of imported goods.

© 2013, All rights reserved.