Minister of National Defense Tea Banh issued a circular on September 20 calling on all owners of private vehicles bearing Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) number plates or special command number plates to pay taxes and duties on their vehicles or face legal action.

In the circular, Tea Banh also said all right-hand drive vehicles with RCAF number plates must be converted to left-drive ones and have taxes paid on them. He cited the requirement from the Ministry of Economy and Finance and the announcement by the Council of Ministers on the matter.

He said the conversion from right-drive to left-drive vehicles must be completed by June 30 next year and any vehicle found after that date will be subject to seizure and destruction by the state.

Tea Banh made it clear that RCAF number plates only imply tax exemption on state-owned vehicles whether purchased by the state or donated for government use by development partners.

However, he said it was permitted for privately owned vehicles of military personnel to bear RCAF number plates as long as they had paid the taxes and duties as normal.

Transparency International Cambodia executive director Pech Pisey said the several recent calls by the government and relevant ministries on this issue indicated that there were a large number of privately owned vehicles on the roads with RCAF plates.

He said this confused the general public, encouraged tax evasion and diluted the authority of government officials carrying out state business, all of which undermines the purpose of having such number plates for government vehicles in the first place.

“I think if they enforced the laws strictly, no one would dare do any wrong. If we only have an announcement and the law is in place but enforcement is not effectively carried out or is done using double standards, this issue will persist.

“The most effective enforcement on this issue would mandate that in addition to paying their taxes, all privately owned vehicles stop using state number plates entirely,” he said.