The Ministry of Public Works and Transport has instructed the owners of right-hand drive (RHD) vehicles which were recently grandfathered-in as street legal without modification to fulfil their tax and VAT obligations in order to register for vehicle identification and equip official licence plates.
The ministry’s July 13 announcement informed the General Department of Land Transport, municipal and provincial transport departments as well as the staff at the provincial One Window service offices that they must accept registrations for vehicle identification and applications for licence plates for existing RHD vehicles that have fulfilled their tax and VAT obligations, in accordance with the recent notification issued by the General Department of Customs and Excise (GDCE).
“This allowance follows the decision by [Prime Minister Hun Sen] announced on July 6. He said the remaining unpaid RHD vehicles can pay their taxes and thereby receive vehicle identification numbers and plates without having to modify their steering columns to left-hand side,” the announcement said.
Chhuon Vorn, director-general of the General Department of Road Transport, said that currently there were more than 5,000 registered former RHD vehicles that have undergone modification and now have legal licence plates and about 2,000 that remained unmodified and unregistered.
Moeng Youleng, director of the Kandal provincial transport department, said that in order to facilitate the management of these vehicles, the ministry has developed a new special number plate for RHD vehicles that have received permission to continue to operate in Cambodia.
“The RHD vehicles have special number plates that are different from others, which means it is easier to track them. If there is a problem in the future, we will have an easier time noticing it,” he said.
Youleng said the registration of vehicle licence plates is now decentralised and the duties have been transferred to the One Window service offices, but this registration is no different from a left-hand drive car which must attach the taxes and undergo vehicle inspection.
Kim Pagna, country director of the Asia Injury Prevention (AIP) Foundation, said that if the decision were based purely on what is safest for Cambodia's roads, then the RHD vehicles would be required to undergo modification to left-hand drive, but it was the right of the head of the government to make this decision and allow these vehicles to drive on the streets.
However, he requested that limitations on the vehicles be put in place such as a lower speed limit, and clear procedures for the drivers to follow to avoid traffic accidents be developed and disseminated to them.
The GDCE reported that as of June 30, which was the deadline for the registration of unpaid import and VAT taxes, it had generated $76 million in revenues. Of the 9,753 vehicles that had registered, 7,040 were RHDs.
It has given additional time for the owners of existing RHD vehicles with unpaid taxes to pay them and apply for registration, setting the new deadline as July 31. Vehicles that miss the July 31 deadline will be considered the same as newly arrived RHD vehicles, which are subject to being stopped and confiscated under Cambodian law.