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Pre-July 7 right-hand drive vehicles allowed

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Nearly 200 owners of right-hand drive vehicles protest in the capital’s Dangkor district on July 5. FB

Pre-July 7 right-hand drive vehicles allowed

Prime Minister Hun Sen has granted the relief requested by owners of right-hand drive (RHD) vehicles, announcing on July 6 that import tax can be paid without having to first convert them to left-hand drive. The premier ordered that all future imports of right-hand drive vehicles be confiscated and destroyed.

On July 5, roughly 200 right-hand drive vehicle owners blocked the road at Kuor Srov roundabout in the capital’s Dangkor district to protest government policy concerning their vehicles. One protester who identified himself only as Huot said they gathered to petition the government – and especially the prime minister – to allow them to pay their taxes without modifying their vehicles to use left-hand drive.

He added that they would have to spend $3,000 to $4,000 on modifying their vehicles to left-hand drive, while high taxes have already been imposed according to each type of vehicle and this is a severe burden on them that will affect their standard of living.

Hun Sen’s decision – which effectively reversed the policy due to come into force with vehicle seizures – came just a day after the protest, which was specifically requesting the premier’s intervention to allow them to pay their taxes after the deadline for converting their vehicles, which passed on June 30.

“To those who have right-hand vehicles who petitioned yesterday to be able to pay taxes without having to change the side their steering wheel is on, I will grant your request. You must pay your taxes, but you are not required to change to left-hand drive steering,” he said. “For those who have already gotten their vehicles changed, that is good for you because now you have left-hand vehicles like everyone else.”

Speaking at the departure ceremony for Cambodia’s athletes competing in the 2022 ASEAN Para Games in Indonesia, Hun Sen said many vehicles have already changed their drive side, while some others are booked to do so at authorised mechanics already. But if they have not done so, they have no need to change it because now they can pay their taxes and get the letter from the customs officials and have a fully legal vehicle that is eligible to be assigned number plates.

He also warned that new illegally imported right-hand drive vehicles will be impounded and destroyed and those responsible will be punished under the law.

“Now I’ll confirm that the timeline starts from July 7. Starting tomorrow, any new illegal right-hand vehicles will not be permitted to pay taxes even if they change their steering wheels. If we see them we will just seize them and there won’t be any arguments about it.

According to the premier, there were 6,999 right-hand drive vehicles registered for modification of the steering wheel and 4,299 of them have already undergone the conversion, while 2,509 had yet to do so and now won’t have to.

Nong Sambor, one of the right-hand drive vehicle owners, said he had already registered to convert his truck’s steering wheel, but he was happy to hear Hun Sen’s announcement.

“I bought my truck more than five years ago. Because I didn’t have enough money to buy a legal truck, I decided to buy this right-hand one. From my experience, I urge other people not to buy right-hand drive vehicles because they are not easy to operate and importers should stop importing them here. But if they keep illegally importing them without penalty, then people without much money will keep buying them,” he said.

Asia Injury Prevention Fund (AIP) country director Kim Pagna said that based on the principles of safety, all right-hand drive vehicles must be transformed to left-hand, but the government has the power to permit such vehicles to travel on the road if it chooses to do so.

He suggested that there should be clear procedures for right-hand vehicle drivers to follow in order to avoid traffic accidents on the road as it is very dangerous to drive them in Cambodia’s traffic and roads system.

“I also suggest that the government consider some further limitations such as a maximum speed outside townships for right-hand vehicles, which is related to the problem of overtaking. Secondly, there should be additional training required for those who have right-hand vehicles, particularly on the risks their vehicles pose,” he said.

He said he supported Hun Sen’s order to seize all new right-hand vehicles because if it is done consistently, it should prevent any new imports from taking place.

Chhuon Von, head of the General Department of Road Transport under the Ministry of Public Works and transport, said the ministry was ready to register the right-hand vehicles according to the premier’s instructions.

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