The Phnom Penh Post
Monday, 07 September 2009
ONGOING confusion over the government's proposed reduction of the costs and fines associated with vehicle registration drove about 500 people in the Thma Koul district of Battambang back out into the streets on Saturday after a series of protests last week.
Residents say they were told the fees were being reduced, but they are still being charged as much as US$100 when they try to register their motorbikes.
"We want a clear answer [from the government] about how much money we will have to pay for the motor tax because we think the current costs are too high," Lim Kuong, a Thma Koul resident, said Sunday.
"We want to pay the fees, but the authorities have not given us a clear answer, and they continue to confiscate our motorbikes."
Prime Minister Hun Sen announced in June that he wanted officials in every province to collect all appropriate fees and taxes in accordance with the Land Traffic Law. Thousands of motorbikes have been confiscated since, according to government data.
Bunn Tha, a district police officer in Thma Koul, insisted the government has reduced prices, but he said individuals were continuing to charge higher prices. "People are protesting because they were cheated by outside people. Authorities have dropped fees from $250 to $100 and then to $60, depending on the type of motorbike, but there is still misunderstanding," he said.
Thma Koul district police chief, Yem Vichet, said the problem was beyond the scope of local police. "It is not our obligation to settle this dispute. It is a matter for the General Department of Customs and Excise Department," he said.
Srey Sreang, head of the General Department of Customs and Excise in Battambang, could not be reached for comment on Sunday.
But Thma Koul district Governor Sam Neng said the issue had already been settled, and that fees had been reduced last month, adding that there has been some confusion on the part of residents who paid fees but could not retrieve their motorbikes.
"Now people can take their bikes any time. We haven't had a chance to process every bike, so owners can pick them up now and return later to pay the fees. We have returned about 200 motorbikes so far," he said.