More than 400 right-hand-drive cargo truck owners—who are requesting they be allowed to keep the illegal vehicles unmodified after paying import and road taxes—blocked busy Phnom Penh roads in protest on Wednesday morning.
Drivers parked and deserted the trucks in the middle of busy sections of National Roads 1, 2 and 3 during rush hour, until City Hall agreed to host negotiations between tax officials and the vehicles’ owners, said Pur Senchey district governor Hem Darith.
“They started blocking the road at 8 a.m. and stayed until 11 a.m.,” Mr. Darith said. “There were many cars that could not pass them on the road, stretching for about 3 km.”
Phann Borin, a representative of the truck owners, said they protested because they had not yet received a response to their request to the government that they be allowed to keep the trucks as they are.
“We agree to pay the tax to the government, but we don’t agree to change the right-hand drive to left-hand drive,” he said, adding that altering the vehicles in Cambodia would not only be costly, but also dangerous, as this was a complicated mechanical procedure.
A statement posted to City Hall’s Facebook page said the drivers would be given 15 days to make a formal request to keep their trucks in their right-hand-drive form.
“It was decided that all drivers have to pay the tax and we have given them 15 days to make a request to the government [regarding other demands],” the statement said. “We promise we will not confiscate the trucks in the next 15 days.”
Orm Sok Sreyrath, who rents out a right-hand-drive truck for trash collection, said that while she was happy to pay the tax, she did not want to do so until she was sure her vehicle would not be confiscated.
“If we pay tax and then the government does not agree to our request, we will lose our money and our trucks. I took out a loan from the bank to buy it,” she said.
Phnom Penh governor Pa Socheatvong said that while he sympathized with the drivers, they were required to follow the law.
“We don’t blame them [for being angry], because they did not import the trucks. However, they must pay the tax.”