Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Corrupt airport officials: luggage scam

I just received this email from a Bloom customer:

Dear Diana,

We went to the Russian market and picked up the bags and packed them into two suitcases. We went to the airport too early, were the first people to check-in, and got our boarding passes and headed upstairs. After going through customs we were stopped where they scan your hand luggage and told to go back to the counter, that something was wrong with our luggage. I stayed and Larry went to find out (I already knew what they were going to say).

They asked Larry why he had all of the bags. He said they are gifts for teachers at our school, we are a big school, the bags are great for teachers, etc., etc. He opened a bag and showed them how great it is and showed them the pockets. They said we can't let you take this many bags because it has "Made in Cambodia" on them. You have to go this office and fill out paperwork to take them out of Cambodia. Of course, the office is closed today, so you have to give us some money. They took US$40 ($20 for each of them) and told Larry that they knew he did not understand and Larry said he would never do it again. We did nothing to try and disguise the bags. We should have mixed them up with our clothes and carried some on . . .

It seemed funny to me that they would not want to buy things made in Cambodia and take them home for gifts? It wasn't an antique Buddha or anything. I thinking that perhaps we might get stopped in Singapore, but I didn't think they would care in Cambodia.

The bags look really nice and I think they will sell.
You can imagine how angry I am that these damn customs officials. They not only cheated my customers, but intimidated them. I have sold our bags to many, many customers who hand-carry the bags on the plane with them. I myself lug our bags to Singapore when I go home. This has never, ever happened to me or to any of my other customers, because there is obviously no such rule about buying and bringing Cambodian-made things out of the country, barring stolen historic artifacts, of course.

The only fee you have to pay if you are bringing things from Cambodia is at the other end, when you've arrived at your destination. There, you may have to pay GST or VAT, according to each individual country's rules. For many countries, you won't need to pay VAT or GST if the value of the items is less than USD500.

The Cambodian officials did this now because of Khmer New Year (which starts today and the holidays last for three days). Robberies and cheating always increase during Khmer New Year and Pchum Ben because people need money when they visit their families in the provinces; you can't go home empty handed, Chhun Hy told me. In fact, last Pchum Ben, Chhun Hy would not go back to Kampong Cham because he did not want to spend a lot of money on his family. I myself was cheated two Pchum Bens ago by a Cambodian woman who handed me a fake USD100 note.

I feel sorry for the country and its people when something like this happens. Do you think tourists will want to buy Cambodian products if word of this gets out? How many people would want to put up with this nonsense? You can imagine many would rather avoid similar scenes with Cambodian customs.

Anyway, just so readers know about another scam that happens in Scambodia.


Tanya said...

Thought you might be interested to know we had two of our bags rifled through and a near new bottle of perfume stolen on our way from Phnom to KL. One bag didnt make it to on the same plane , was found later that night by Malaysian airlines in Singapore and transfered to KL on a later fight that same night. I guess it is lucky its the first time in all the travel we do that this has happened. I guess they couldnt sell anything else...no designer clothing in our bags :)

Diana Saw said...

Thanks for that Tanya! I hope it serves as a warning to other readers not to leave valuables in their check-in luggage. I have to say I have been lucky on that front--or maybe as you say, I have nothing designer too!

Unknown said...

The Phnom Penh Cambodian Airport is so corrupted. They (the staff) pray only certain people. So if you look European/French/American, they will likely leave you alone. But sometimes, they will try to extort money out of anybody.

Diana Saw said...

yes, a friend of mine who brought 5 bags of donated clothes and toys from singapore was stopped and asked for money. after bargaining, he paid USD5. the man also helped himself to a toy for his child.


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