Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Low marks for Cambodia’s efforts to combat illicit trade

Low marks for Cambodia’s efforts to combat illicit trade

A crane unloads containers from a docked ship at the Phnom Penh Autonomous Port.
A crane unloads containers from a docked ship at the Phnom Penh Autonomous Port. Pha Lina

Low marks for Cambodia’s efforts to combat illicit trade

Cambodia ranked third-worst for illicit trade out of 17 countries in the Asia-Pacific region in a recently released index by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) that analysed governments’ abilities to combat illegal trade operations.

The report, commissioned by the European Chamber of Commerce of Singapore, reviewed countries under four categories: intellectual property rights, transparency and trade, customs environment and supply and demand.

Cambodia was given an overall score of 23.9 on a weighted scale of 100, while Laos scored 12.9 and Myanmar came last with 10.8. At the other end, Australia had a top score of 85.2.

“Not surprisingly, the region’s poorer economies – Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar – sit at the bottom of the rankings,” the report said, adding that poorer countries will continue to be plagued by budgetary constraints that make it difficult to implement necessary reforms.

Out of the four categories studied, the customs environment was Cambodia’s worst performing area – a problem the report’s authors predict could lead to more shady trade dealings.

“Without outside assistance, it could be years, if not decades, before any of these economies can begin to build a sufficient customs apparatus” the report added. “As the region continues to integrate, the vulnerabilities this creates could exacerbate the problem of illicit trade.”

Preap Kol, executive director for Transparency International Cambodia, said continued lack of oversight and transparency allows “illicit trade to occur quite commonly and easily.”

“When trading countries are not required by laws to refrain from engaging in corruption, they are often likely to get involved in corrupt practices especially in briberies to gain benefits or competitive advantages for their businesses.”

He supported the EIU’s recommendation that a third party or outside entity could help clean up and revamp Cambodia’s customs system.

“Alternatively, a robust computerised system that can record and keep accurate accounts of imports and exports can minimise illicit trade, provided that regular audits and inspections are conducted by independent bodies,” he said.

While government spokesman Phay Siphan admitted that more needs to be done to stop illicit trade, he said the government has been proactive in curtailing illegal practices. However, he said it was nearly impossible to completely stamp it out.

“The government has done a lot to strengthen its customs system in order to provide fair treatment for all,” he said. “All government institutions related to trade activities have launched electronic systems to facilitate trade, which follow international standards.”

Lim Heng, vice president of Cambodia Chamber of Commerce, told the Post yesterday that he did not believe the EIU report was factually correct, explaining that private companies in the country and the government work together to solve trade irregularities.

“Generally, our trade system is good and many things work through the law,” he said. “There is good law enforcement from the officials.”

However, he admitted that not all businesses and government officials operate at the same level of legality.

“We agree that there are some poor performers out there, but it is because of individual officials or certain businesses, and not the system as a whole,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • PM: West unfair to Cambodia

    Prime Minister Hun Sen released a message celebrating the International Day of Peace on Monday, saying that some major powers and western countries had been systemically cooperating to put political pressure on Cambodia as they did in the 1970s and 1980s. Hun Sen said pressuring

  • ‘Bad news is an investor’s best friend’ – unlocking investment potential in Cambodia

    It is time to shop. Economic woes provide good pickings for investors if they know where to look The poem If, written by English Nobel laureate poet and novelist Rudyard Kipling for his son circa 1895, is widely perceived as fatherly advice for John who would

  • First ‘mobile kitchen’ in Cambodia enters service

    A catering company recently rolled out Cambodia’s first “mobile kitchen” – a $50,000 container capable of serving up to 200 people at a time. The kitchen is the brainchild of Seng Hok Heng Catering Services. At 4.4m-high, 6.8m-long and 2.4m-wide (expandable to 6.8m), the kitchen is equipped

  • PM requests Russia’s Covid vaccine

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested that Russia provide Cambodia with its Covid-19 vaccine after the former announced it planned on mass vaccinating its population next month. The request came on Thursday through the prime minister’s Facebook page as he met with Anatoly Borovik,

  • Kingdom, China rebut basis for US sanctions

    The Council for the Development of Cambodia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and Tianjin Union Investment Development Group Co Ltd (Tianjin) have responded to US sanctions on Union Development Group Co Ltd (UDG), a Chinese-owned company currently developing the sprawling $3.8 billion Dara

  • Influenza breaks out in eight provinces

    Nearly 600 people have been infected with influenza in eight provinces in the past month, Ministry of Health spokesperson Or Vandine said. The ministry is advising extreme caution. A report released by Vandine on Saturday said the Ministry of Health observed transmissions of influenza between August 15