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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Import ban on petrol aims at plugging leaks

Import ban on petrol aims at plugging leaks

Cambodia will prohibit land-based imports of refined petroleum products from January 1 to eliminate smuggling along the country’s borders and improve the efficiency of customs revenue collection, officials said yesterday.

According to the General Department of Customs and Excise (GDCE), which announced the ban on December 20, transportation infrastructure already in place in the Kingdom allows petroleum companies that import their products by sea to distribute them nationwide, effectively eliminating the need for land-based imports.

A GDCE official, who declined to be named, explained yesterday that the import ban was unlikely to affect the supply or price of petrol in Cambodia as the major distribution companies receive their bulk petroleum shipments by sea.

“When we allowed land-based imports, there were many cases of smuggling,” he said. “With the new ban, the country’s petroleum distribution will be easier to manage and it will help the department get more revenue from customs.”

According to the Ministry of Commerce, 2.55 million tonnes of petroleum were imported in 2015, a 64 percent increase from the previous year.

Soeng Sophary, spokesperson for the Ministry of Commerce, said the ministry did not distinguish between land or sea-based imports in its figures, but said the opportunities for smuggling are much greater over land.

“We hope this new strategy will help the government manage the petroleum industry more efficiently,” she said.

Bin Many Mialia, marketing manager of PTT Cambodia, one of the country’s largest petroleum importers and distributors, welcomed the government’s deployment of the new measure, saying that decreasing smuggling will help level the playing field for petroleum distributors.

“We always want to have more transparency in the industry where all companies pay custom taxes,” he said. “If everyone pays taxes, it creates a fair system that benefits the country overall.”

However, smuggling still occurs by sea, and on a much larger scale, claims Yim Sovann, spokesperson for the Cambodia National Rescue Party. He added that the government was not intent on reducing the scale of smuggling because of the corruption associated with large-scale imports.

“The issue is not about importing petrol on land versus water, the issue is that customs officials have no willingness to reduce smuggling,” he said. “The issue is still about corruption, nepotism and a lack of political will to resolve the problem.”

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