The import of used cars and motorbikes manufactured prior to the year 2000 will be banned in order to help preserve Cambodia’s environment, Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh announced Monday.
The move will keep tens of thousands of used vehicles from being brought into the Kingdom.
"We must clean up the country of cheap imported vehicles that may only operate for another six months or less, after which they are turned into scrap," Prasidh said during the opening ceremony for the KT Hino Motors truck distribution office in Phnom Penh.
“We want certain people to stop thinking of Cambodia as the junkyard of the world,” he added.
The proposed policy, which he said he would soon submit to Prime Minister Hun Sen for approval, would ban the import of vehicles made from the 1950s to the 1990s.
The policy is part of the trade platform of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and would be implemented once the government received a new electoral mandate in the coming elections.
The government would implemented the plan on a rolling basis, with vehicles made before 2003 banned in another three years and those made before 2005 banned two years after that.
“Now is the time that our people advance to the next level, using brand new automotive and motorbike technology,” Prasidh said.
The ministry was also considering lowering fees and customs duties on new vehicles to encourage importation, while ensuring that lower-income people had access to affordable transportation, he said.
Cambodia is home to about 200,000 automobiles and 670,000 motorbikes, most of them used, according to figures from the Ministry of Public Works and Transport.
Economist Sok Sina said there were both advantages and disadvantages to allowing the import of used vehicles, adding that most drivers could only afford second-hand products.
“New cars are very expensive, but old cars also need a lot of repair and are less fuel efficient,” Sok Sina said.
But for a less developed country like Cambodia, the appetite for affordable means of transportation had to take priority over environmental concerns, he added.
Thon Virak, deputy director general of the ministry’s Foreign Trade Department, agreed with the import ban but dismissed the idea that older vehicles were turning Cambodia into a junkyard.
He told the Post on June 16 that scrap vehicles would continue to be re-exported to other countries for recycling.
“I think scrap metal and spare parts are currently quite valuable,” he said.
Addressing the June 16 opening of the Hino Motors distribution center, Hino Motors Ltd Senior Managing Director Masakazu Ichikawa welcomed Prasidh’s proposal to protect the environment by promoting the use of new vehicles.
“Most people in Cambodia now buy used vehicles,” he said. “But we are convinced that economic development will shift demand in the Cambodian market from used trucks to new trucks.”