Radio broadcasters Voice of America and Radio Free Asia have become the latest media outlets to come under government scrutiny over their operating licences and tax liabilities.
The Ministry of Economy and Finance has asked the Ministry of Information to take legal action against VOA and RFA for allegedly failing to register for tax and operating without a media licence.
This follows a meeting of the Council of Ministers last week in which Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered officials to investigate media outlets for failing to pay tax.
The Cambodia Daily has been notified that it owes $6.1 million in tax for the years 2007 to 2016, according General Tax Department documents.
Mr Hun Sen said he was not using the tax law as a political pretext against critics.
“This is just a matter of implementing the taxation law,” he said.
On Friday, the Ministry of Economy sent the Ministry of Information a letter asking it to take action against RFA and VOA.
Tax officials have reviewed data from the Ministry of Information listing radio and televisions stations which had fulfilled their tax and registration obligations. RFA and VOA had not met their tax obligations.
Both RFA and VOA do not have their own transmitters and have been broadcasting stories by renting time on private radio stations, according to the economy ministry letter.
In that same letter, Information Minister Khieu Kanharith was urged to ask the two radio stations to cooperate. If they failed to do so, Mr Kanharith is told in the letter he can take thorough measures in line with the law against both stations.
Mr Kanharith posted on Facebook that his ministry had not yet received the letter. “Normally the station which has sold time on the airwaves has the obligation to pay tax,” he said.
Mr Kanharith was questioned on his Facebook account by an individual named Visoth Sean who asked why the Cambodia Daily newspaper owed tax.
Mr Kanharith replied: “Tax has to be paid because the Cambodia Daily has received money to carry advertisements.”
Moeun Chhean Nariddh, director the Cambodia Institute for Media Studies, said not only VOA and RFA were affected by the tax demand.
All media outlets and companies who invested in Cambodia or anywhere else had to follow the law of those countries.
“But what is strange is that after many years they have just been required to pay tax now,” he said.
Asked if the reports about tax demands were connected to next year’s elections and attempts by the government to shut down media critics, Mr Chhean Narith said it might be a coincidence.
Voice of America and Radio Free Asia could not be reached for comment.