Anticipating increased smuggling with the start of the dry season, Thai and Cambodian customs officials met Monday to sign a cooperation agreement to exchange information and improve customs enforcement.
A seven member Thai customs delegation led by Thai Customs Chairman Samchai Nuk Engtrakun will visit with Cambodian officials for the next two days to continue discussions on how smuggling can be stopped along the border.
This is the first time customs officials from the two countries have met since the 1980s, according to Pen Simon, director general of customs for Cambodia.
Though he said Monday’s agreement was not a guarantee that smuggling between Cambodia and Thailand would decrease, Pen Simon said it was a first step in addressing the problem.
But both countries have to abide by the agreement, which calls for increased sharing of information between customs officials and an upgrade of customs technology and human resources, Pen Simon said.
“Cambodia and Thai customs will be successful in collecting tax revenue for the governments but we need some more time to work on stopping smuggling. Just signing a piece of paper does not mean success,” Pen Simon said.
The smuggling of goods across the border from Thailand, particularly of gas and oil, has become increasingly problematic for Cambodia, which loses an estimated $800,000 a month in lost tax revenue to fuel smugglers alone.
Prime Minister Hun Sen earlier this month directed government officials to crack down on smuggling across the border—especially that of fuel.
—which some say is encouraged by the high duties placed on fuel products. According to Te Doung Tara, adviser to Cabinet Minister Sok An, the government may recalculate the custom duties on fuel to make the price more competitive.