The Kep Provincial Administration has declared that it will no longer impose a fee on visitors to the coastal region during festivals and holidays like the Khmer New Year celebrations which just passed.

Previously, the administration had charged a “parking and sanitation tax” of 3,000 riel or more on all visitors to the province.

“The provincial administration is pleased to inform national and international tourists and all citizens that as of today, Kep will not tax visitors,” said the provincial authorities in an April 15 social media post.

“The administration will continue to do work with the relevant ministries and institutions to provide tourists with the opportunity to visit Kep for free,” it added.

The statement followed a series of complaints on social media, some of which reached the ears of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“I was in Kampot and took the opportunity to visit Kep, as I did not want to travel to Preah Sihanouk to enjoy the ocean. I was very disappointed to find that I had to pay a fee to enter the province. Every province in the Kingdom claims to want frequent visits from tourists, but your province is unique; we just arrived and now we must pay?

“This also applies to drivers who are passing through. Why would the provincial governor do this? What will he boast about when there are no more visitors because of this ridiculous surcharge?” said a Facebook account Nov Samnang in an April 14 post.

“The fees are not advertised, so I imagine they make quite a windfall from drivers who have no choice but to pay the fee once they have driven there,” he added.

The prime minister described the “tax”, and the decision to collect it, as “ignorant”, in an April 15 Telegram message to the citizens of the Kingdom.

“I have just learnt about this so-called ‘tax’ that is imposed. I order the provincial governor to work with the Ministry of Economy and Finance and relevant institutions to completely cancel any contract that is in place for the collecting of money from those entering or passing through the province,” he said.

He ordered that no money be taken from the people.

Shortly after his message, Kep provincial governor Som Piseth announced that the fees would be rescinded.

Local resident Nheb Sokphy expressed his happiness at the news and thanked Hun Sen for looking after the populace.

“My family and I traveled by car to Kep beach, where admission was 4,000 riel per person. I would have objected, but I was afraid to miss out on the fun, and of course I had my family with me. I am not saying that the fee was expensive, but it really made me feel like guests were being exploited,” he said.