The General Department of Land Transport has informed the owners of right-hand drive vehicles that they must modify them to be left-hand drive with the work carried at two approved locations in order to ensure that it meets technical and safety standards.

This rule applies to all right-hand drive vehicles regardless of what number plates they bear with no exceptions made for vehicles with government or military plates.

Land transport director-general Chhuon Vorn told The Post on September 16 that the two companies authorised to carry out the modifications are STP International (Cambodia) and Sovan Yon (S-Y) auto-service centre.

The Council of Ministers and Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) commanders have in recent days issued proclamations regarding the policy change in enforcement status of the law banning the use of right-hand drive vehicles which has been in place for many years.

They reminded right-hand drive vehicle owners to modify them to left-hand drive and pay taxes on them according to the existing laws and regulations. All right-hand drive vehicles in Cambodia sighted on the road or found by authorities in any location will be subject to summary seizure and destruction after June of next year.

“There are only two auto service centres that have been granted the rights from the Ministry of Public Works and Transport to modify right-hand into left-hand vehicles. If any other auto-service centre besides those two provides the modification, that is illegal,” Vorn said.

He said around 5,000 right-hand drive vehicles were issued red number plates and had registered and paid taxes previously, but those exemptions would be revoked in the future aside from certain service vehicles like fire engines or rubbish trucks.

In an interview with Radio France International on September 15, Customs and Excise director-general Kun Nhim said right-hand drive vehicles were prohibited for importation and were not in compliance with the road traffic law.

He said the customs department had prevented many right-hand drive vehicles from being imported through corridors like the Cambodia-Thailand border, but there were still some vehicles that had been brought into the country clandestinely despite their being illegal.

He added that the customs department had obtained permission from the government to require right-hand drive vehicles to pay taxes after they had been modified to left-hand drive ones.

“After the right-hand drive vehicles are modified, they have to register them with customs officials. Once they do that they will be given receipts to show that they have paid their taxes. Then their modified to left-hand can register for number plates and legally travel on the streets,” he said.

Nhim added that untaxed vehicles bearing RCAF licence plates numbered around 10,000 in total, but they will now be expected to pay their taxes if they are private vehicles rather than state property – without exception.

Kim Panha, director of the Asia Injury Prevention Foundation Cambodia, previously told The Post that the reason right-hand drive vehicles are banned in Cambodia is that they present an extreme danger on the road when they are attempting to pass other vehicles due to the driver’s having an obstructed view – and as any driver on Cambodia’s two-lane rural highways can attest – vehicles pass each other in this manner with near-constant frequency.