Middlemen offering to speed licence plate applications are reaping the benefits of the city's new road laws, but officials say they are scamming customers with fake plates and high prices
Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN
An illegal number plate stall on Street 52 in Phnom Penh.
AN impending crackdown on vehicle tags by municipal traffic authorities has led to a surge in business for private licence plate brokers, but officials say that the middlemen are operating illegally and licence plates should be obtained directly through the municipal Department of Public Works & Transport (DPWT).
From January 2009, City Hall will start issuing fines for all motorbike riders lacking number plates, side mirrors and helmets. As motorists race to get their vehicles in conformity with the new road laws, business is surging for a string of private brokers who operate outside the office of the municipal Transport Department.
Customers in need of licence plates told the Post they were angry with the high price of the brokers, who charge extra for their speedy service, but said they had no choice.
"If we go do it by ourselves, we need to wait one month and pay US$20. If we allow the broker to do it, it takes only a half day, but we need to pay $30 or $35," said Doch Vanaroth, a student at the National University of Management.
He said that to apply for a licence, motorists needed to visit the Post and Telecommunications Department and the Customs Department to confirm they have paid their motorbike tax. He was annoyed, he added, that the only other option was to pay exorbitant rates to a broker.
"I am very angry with licence plate staff who use their position to ask for money," Doch Vanaroth said.
Phay Srey, a licence plate and driver's licence broker, said the money she gets from clients does not all go into her own pockets, but is instead needed to speed up the process.
"It leaves me with only $10," she said. "When I am doing business for my clients, [I get] all the documents and I do everything for them. They only need to go into the office to take a photo and then wait for the licence plates."
But To Sochanthy, chief of the motorcycle authority at the Transport Department, said brokers outside his office were not helping people at all.
"People get tricked by the brokers saying that they have to pay between $30 and $35," he said. "In fact, they only help to write a few words on a document and for that they get $30. Sometimes they can get the licence plate fast because the broker gives fake plates that look similar to our originals."
He said the department was powerless to take action against the brokers but would arrest them if they approached people in the office.
"People should stop getting tricked by brokers because they have no right to enter our staff office," he said, adding that people should contact staff that are wearing official identification around their necks.
"We cannot penalise [the brokers] because they are outside our department, so I can only report them to authorities," he said.
Some 77,077 new licence plates were issued from January to November, according to the department.