The publisher of the Cambodia Daily newspaper has hit back at the Finance Ministry’s tax department, which says the paper owes $6.1 million in back taxes.
In a letter to the department on August 9, publisher Bernard Krisher denied that the paper owed the back tax, claiming his philanthropic work should be credited.
“I wish to inform you that over the past 20 years I have built 561 five-room rural schools all over Cambodia,” Mr Krisher said .
“These schools are a donation to the Ministry of Education and the children of Cambodia.
“The estimated value of my contribution is more than $39,000,000,” he added.
Tax department director Kong Vibol last week sent out the demand that the paper resolve the tax issue for the years 2007 to 2016 within 30 days.
The demand followed a speech by Prime Minister Hun Sen in which he wondered why critical media outlets were operating without paying taxes.
The Ministry of Economy and Finance has also asked the Ministry of Information to take legal action against radio stations VOA and RFA for allegedly failing to register for tax and operating without media licences.
Mr Krisher added in his letter that he supported more than 400 girls through scholarships to ensure they stayed in school and do not work in rice fields or fall victim to sex trafficking.
“I set up the Cambodia Daily in 1993, right after the civil war, as a social enterprise whose purpose was to train Cambodian journalists and provide accurate news to the Cambodian people,” Mr Krisher said.
“From the start, I never took a salary nor profited from the Cambodia Daily. What profits there were went to those schools.”
“The Cambodia Daily and I have made enormous contributions to support the national needs of Cambodia,” the letter added. “These should be credited. I refute that I owe the tax department $6.1 million.”
Mr Vibol declined to comment. “I am at the dentist and cannot talk now,” he said.