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Illegal fees taxing for villagers in northwest

BANTEAY Meanchey residents say they are facing harassment from police, forestry administration officers and other authorities who have set up illegal checkpoints in the area in order to extort money from them.

Vann Savy, a resident of Banteay Meanchey’s Thmor Pouk district, said Thursday that there were at least nine illegal checkpoints near his home that had been a persistent bother to her community.

“I don’t understand why they always harass poor people like us. They don’t understand the difficulties we face,” he said.

Chhrey Chhroeuy, another Thmor Pouk resident, said police operating an illegal checkpoint had forced him to pay them 2 million riels (US$479) as he was hauling a load of lumber along a Banteay Meanchey road to build a new house.

“They said that if I didn’t give them the money, they would take all my wood, even though I showed them my receipt,” he said. “There’s no reason to complain about them anymore because we’ll never get a proper resolution.”

District Deputy Governor Ham Sam Ang dismissed residents’ claims, saying rumours of illegal checkpoints were baseless. “I went to a place last week that supposedly had illegal checkpoints, but I didn’t see anything,” he said.

In a September 28 speech, Prime Minister Hun Sen accused officials working at checkpoints along the Cambodian-Thai frontier – especially those at the Poipet border crossing – of illegally taxing people who crossed the border.

Reforming checkpoints and border crossings, Hun Sen said, are part of the government’s broader fight against corruption.

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