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Thailand to keep a close eye on LPG and NGV exploitation from Cambodian residents

Heavily subsidised prices for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and natural gas for vehicles (NGV) in Thailand draw dozens of cars daily from Cambodia to refill their tanks in this Thai border town.

But complaints that too many Cambodians are getting a free ride, or rather a very cheap one, have led to authorities rationing gas to drivers from the neighbouring country.

LPG, which accounts for most of the sales to Cambodian drivers, costs 18.13 baht a kilogramme in Thailand. The price is scheduled to rise to 24.82 baht in April but that’s still far less than the 45 baht the fuel costs in Cambodia.

LPG costs 49 baht a kilograme in Laos, 34 baht in Myanmar and 20 baht in Malaysia. Such prices are attractive enough to make smuggling LPG lucrative.

Hundreds of cars from Cambodia pass the permanent checkpoint at Baan Klong Luek in Aranyaprathet district, causing traffic jams and difficulties for Thai car owners looking to top up.

Pol Lt Col Benjapol Rodsasal, deputy commander of the Immigration Division at Sa Kaeo, has told his officers to keep tighter control over the entry of Cambodian cars at the checkpoint.

He was responding to complaints from local people who reason that the government spends taxes collected from Thai people to subsidise gas prices.

Police are now keeping careful records of cars from Cambodia passing through the checkpoint, and they’re allowing only vehicles with one gas tank to pass. Vehicles with extra tanks are believed to be used by smugglers.

All cars from Cambodia will be allowed to fill their tanks on the Thai side only once a day.

The records show that around 150 cars a day on average pass through the checkpoint. The number may rise to 250 when cars passing through temporary checkpoints are taken into account.

Thailand has capped LPG prices for more than two decades. In 2008, the country became a net importer of LPG when the global oil price hit a record high of US$140 a barrel. Many motorists then switched from petrol to LPG.

The price of NGV is also subsidised to promote the use of natural gas. PTT, the national oil and gas conglomerate, sells NGV at 10.50 baht/kg while the actual cost is 15.14 baht.

NGV demand leapt 21% to 7.7 million kilogrammes per day in 2012.

The government has allowed the NGV retail price to start rising by 0.50 baht per month since Jan 16 until it reaches 10.50 baht, which is still far cheaper than petrol.

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