Hun Sen Backtracks on Banning Right-Hand Drive Vehicles After Protest

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Prime Minister Hun Sen announced the walkback of a ban on vehicles with steering wheels on their right-hand side during an address to Cambodia’s delegation to the ASEAN Para Games on Wendesday, July 6, 2022. (Photo from Hun Sen’s Facebook page)

A plan to ban vehicles with right-hand side steering wheels quickly faltered after truck drivers protested in the days following the implementation date.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Wednesday morning that the ban — which would have required vehicles to be modified — was now being scrapped.

The ban, initially announced in December, came into force on July 1 but was quickly opposed on Tuesday by hundreds of truck drivers who blocked a road in Phnom Penh’s Dangkao district in protest.

Truck driver Long Sombo, who joined Tuesday’s protest, said it would have cost anywhere from $300 to $7,000 to move a steering wheel to the left side of a vehicle. He said he was already more than $3,000 in debt to pay customs tax on his truck.

He did not believe right-hand-drive vehicles were a major safety risk on the roads. 

“I think it isn’t appropriate, and the important thing is that it depends on the driver and those traveling along the road and their carelessness,” Sombo said.

Hun Sen said in his speech that the change was a response to the people’s demand and to reduce their hardships, but reminded them they would still have to pay all required taxes.

“Now I’ve agreed with your request,” Hun Sen said. “You don’t need to change the steering wheel for those who have not changed it.”

The prime minister added that no new imports of right-hand-drive vehicles are allowed, and expected most would be phased out in around five years.

The Finance Ministry customs department director Kun Nhim said the government had never allowed the import of right-hand-drive vehicles, so they had all been smuggled without the payment of excise taxes.

There would still need to be a deadline set for paying taxes, he said. 

“If not, the case will not finish,” Nhim said, adding that around 7,000 right-hand-drive vehicles had already paid for a revenue of $76 million. About 300-400 are still unpaid, he said.

Transport Ministry spokesman Heang Sotheayuth said right-hand-drive vehicles were a risk on the road, especially when overtaking.

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