POROUS borders and a dollarised economy make the Kingdom vulnerable to counterfeit notes, government officials and bankers have warned, adding that an economy in recession could exacerbate the problem.
The director of banking supervision at the National Bank, Phan Ho, said there was a push to use the riel, which falls under the country's control as the national currency. The use of United States dollars and Thai baht is, by contrast, more difficult to control and fake notes can easily move across Cambodia's porous border, he said.
Police in Siem Reap province last week arrested a man in possession of US$2,000 in counterfeit notes, Kampuchea Thmey reported, the latest such case. But Phan Ho said: "I don't know how much counterfeit money in total has been trafficked into our country."
Cheam Yeap, chairman of the National Assembly's finance committee, warned that the current economic crisis could make the country more susceptible to counterfeit notes as money supply becomes more restricted.
The problem will grow if we don't take measures to control it.
US-dollar counterfeiting has been a problem since the Untac period from 1992 when the greenback first came into widespread use, said Phan Ho.
So Phonnary, executive vice president and chief of operations officer at ACLEDA Bank, said that counterfeit money continues to be a concern, despite bank officials routinely sending hundreds of fake notes to the National Bank to be destroyed.
"We are worried about fake money - dollars - still being used in our country. It is difficult for us because our country uses many different currencies - riels, baht and dollars - and most users don't know which dollars are real and which ones are fake," she said, urging that the general public to check notes themselves to help fight the problem.
The opposition Sam Rainsy Party attributed counterfeiting to weak law enforcement, urging the government to address the problem. "We need responsibility from the police," said Mu Sochua, an SRP lawmaker.
Phnom Penh's Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth agreed that the issue demands immediate cooperation between police and the relevant institutions.
"I want bank institutions and ... police to cooperate with each other in order to find and arrest offenders," he said. "Although the amount of fake money being used in our markets is low now, the problem will grow if we don't take measures to control it."
US Embassy spokesman John Johnson said the US has provided training to central bank officials, as well as officials of private banks, on "how to spot and deal with counterfeit currency". The embassy also produces awareness posters, he said.