Prime Minister Hun Sen suspended the mandatory computerized scanning of exports at
the Sihanoukville port on October 14, after the inefficient two-week-old system held
up the shipment of 90 garment containers. Industry officials estimated the delay
cost factories up to $4 million.
Later that day, Hun Sen defended the controversial total-scanning policy at the ninth
Government-Private Sector Forum. He said full scanning operations would resume after
foreign donors provide additional equipment.
"With these scanners we can fight arms trade, drugs, human trafficking and international
terrorism," he said, adding that the increased security would burnish Cambodia's
reputation and increase foreign investment in Cambodia.
But though illicit trafficking is certainly a problem for Cambodia, it is unclear
whether it involves shipping containers in Sihanoukville.
David de Beer, advisor for a European Union program to curb small arms in Cambodia,
called the likelihood of arms trafficking in Sihanoukville "minimal."
And Bill Forbes, who works on human trafficking issues for World Vision, said he
had never heard of human trafficking through shipping containers.
An official at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime could not think of a
single instance of drug trafficking through containers shipped out of the Sihanoukville
port in recent years. "The port is always a concern," he said, "but
we have had no confirmation of [drug trafficking] lately."
The single car-mounted scanner at the Sihanoukville port is owned and operated by
Sindei, a company run by National Assembly member and AZ businessman Eung Bun How.
Joe Lu, chairman of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia, said port
officials announced months ago that from October 1 electronic scanning would be required
for all containers leaving Cambodia. Manufacturers must pay $45 or $72 a container
for scanning, depending on length.
Cambodia's scanning fee is average compared with other ports in the region, but its
requirement that all exports be scanned is not. Lu said ports in Hong Kong and Singapore
employ a risk-management system to identify and scan suspicious containers without
disrupting other shipping.
He said industry officials proposed a similar plan for the port in Sihanoukville,
but government officials were not interested.