The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) has appealed to Prime Minister Hun Sen to delay a crackdown on oversized trucks, which has already forced more than half of the vehicles serving the garment industry off of the roads since it was called for by the premier on Friday.
In an open letter posted to their Facebook page yesterday, GMAC said the government’s enforcement push “posed a new threat to the garment, footwear, and traveling goods sectors, which are facing an increasingly competitive global market and shorter orders from buyers”.
The letter called on the government to issue temporary permits for oversized trucks and to amend the prakas responsible for banning some oversized vehicles to bring it more in line with international standards. Kaing Monika, deputy secretary-general at GMAC, acknowledged yesterday that any problems were the fault of the private sector for not complying with legal requirements regarding truck length, but said the crackdown would have negative effects for the garment sector if it wasn’t modified in the next few days.
“It is a serious issue, because transportation companies don’t dare to drive and have not accepted orders for their services from factories because their trucks do not comply with the law,” Monika said, adding that most of the trucks were used trucks imported from the US and EU, where they met proper safety standards but “do not meet the standards of our country, which is limited to only 16 metres” in length.
The garment industry produces the vast majority of Cambodia’s exports and employs more than 700,000 workers. GMAC’s public appeal is the latest indication of a rising wave of concern from the private sector over the prime minister’s policy pronouncements, which have intensified along with the government’s crackdown on the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party late last year.
As part of his populist campaign, Hun Sen has sought to woo garment factory workers, who make up a large voting bloc, by raising wages and increasing social safety net benefits for employees.
But those actions have left business leaders concerned about rising prices in the Kingdom. In the past month, industry leaders have warned that persistently high logistics costs, rising wages and lax customs enforcement are threatening foreign investment levels in the Kingdom.
Sin Chanthy, president of Cambodia Freight Forwarders Association, a trucking industry body, said yesterday that most of the vehicles being stopped in the crackdown were not illegally modified, but simply exceeded the 16-metre legal limit.
Chanthy said that he had met with Transportation Minister Sun Chanthol last night to ask if trucks of 16.8 and 17.55 metres could also be allowed, but added that an immediate solution was not likely.
“There is no solution yet, as this issue cannot be solved at the ministry,” he said yesterday, adding that the minister had promised to raise the issue with other members of government.
“If we get the permission as suggested, then we will solve the problem, because 90 percent of trucks would comply with the law.”
Problems related to this most recent crackdown emerged even before it officially went into effect. In leaked audio on Friday, Hun Manith, the prime minister’s son, could be heard admonishing officials who had begun the crackdown several hours early, saying it was possible that blame for their over zealousness could land on his father.