A small crowd of goods transporters protested at the Pailin customs office on Saturday, demanding that authorities reduce the fees for imported goods, a request that was firmly denied.
Chum Voeun, Stung Kach commune police chief, said that about 18 vendors protested, claiming they could not make a living paying 40,000 to 50,000 riel (about $10 to $12.50) per cart.
The men are hired by Cambodians to bring goods back from Thailand, which are subject to a fee. He said the protesters appealed to the custom officials to take pity on their poverty, but the authorities said they must follow the law.
Voeun said district and provincial authorities “mediated” the situation, asking workers to take smaller loads of goods if they want to pay less tax.
A 200- to 300-kilogram load would only carry a fee of 5,000 riel (about $1.25), but many transporters were bringing up to 1,000 kilograms, which carries the significantly heavier tax.
Chou Thy, a representative of the protesters, said the men can barely earn enough money for food under the current system. He said they are only paid about 50,000 to 65,000 riel (about $12.50 to $16) per 1,000 kilograms transported. After paying the tax, they may walk away from a job having made less than $4.
“Tax, loading and unloading fees – we still can hardly earn [enough] for food, so we just want a decrease of the tax,” he said.
However, Thy said after listening to authorities, he believed their assertion that the transporters’ employers were using them to skirt paying taxes themselves, and that not paying the fees would hurt state revenue collection.