The General Department of Customs and Excise (GDCE) has again reminded the owners of right-hand drive (RHD) vehicles to register by July 31, warning that they can be confiscated should the deadline be missed.

Many owners of RHD vehicles had registered those remaining in the country without needing to modify the position of the steering wheel, according to the department’s announcement on July 25.

This follows the decision of Prime Minister Hun Sen regarding the collection of import taxes and value-added tax (VAT) on unregistered RHD vehicles.

From July 1-24, a total of 4,854 RHD vehicles had been registered, some of which had already fulfilled their import tax and VAT obligations.

The GDCE also for the final time called on those who had not registered to meet the July 31 deadline to avail of the opportunity to pay import tax and VAT without the need to modify the vehicle or face penalties.

For the owners of registered ones, the department has given until October 8 to pay import tax and VAT.

“Vehicles that are not registered by this deadline will be considered as non-existent vehicles in the country – newly smuggling vehicles – which are subject to being seized in accordance with applicable laws and regulations,” it stressed.

GDCE spokesman Keam Chankosal told The Post on July 26 that it had been difficult to identify unregistered RHD vehicles as many had previously been smuggled into Cambodia.

Chankosal said RHD vehicles had in the past been illegally imported to avoid import tax, while sometimes traders had imported the parts and assembled the cars locally, which made them difficult to keep track of.

“This is what makes it difficult for us to identify all these vehicles. We had estimated that there might be about 1,000 vehicles being registered after the decision by Prime Minister Hun Sen. But more than 4,000 vehicles have currently been registered, so there were far more than we thought,” he said.

However, he said that after the July 31 deadline, they would have a more accurate figure, as any remaining unregistered RHD vehicles would be considered illegal and be confiscated in accordance with the law.

“We are calling on the owners of the remaining RHD vehicles to register because we want to know the true number of such vehicles. We cannot provide more time because unprincipled traders would take the opportunity to smuggle more vehicles or spare parts for assembly here,” Chankosal said.

Sok Panha, the owner of a car dealership in Phnom Penh, said he believed the current action by the government brought a lot of benefits, such as the collection of taxes into the state coffers.

He said it would also contribute to the elimination of illegal vehicle imports into Cambodia to make the automobile market more transparent and competitive.

According to the GDCE, as of June 30 – the previous deadline for existing unpaid import tax and VAT – the department collected $76 million, with 9,753 vehicles having been hidden under false number plates, while the owners of 7,040 RHD vehicles had paid the taxes.

According to the latest figures, from July 1-18, a total of 2,060 vehicle were registered, of which 1,029 had paid import tax and VAT, while the owners of 15 left-hand drive vehicles had paid tax.

Therefore, about 17.79 billion riel (approximately $4.35 million) had been collected in import tax and VAT from the owners of RHD and left-hand drive vehicles.