Cambodia: Taiwan-bound vessel’s sand ‘exempt from ban’

Yesenia Amaro Phnom Penh Post 5 May 17;

Taiwan officials yesterday confirmed that a ship by the name of Deryoung Sunflower – a vessel that this week appeared in a viral video released by NGO Mother Nature claiming that it was loaded with sand for export despite a ban – is expected to arrive today at Taiwan’s Port of Taichung.

However, the officials said, the ship is actually carrying silica sand, which the Cambodian Ministry of Mines and Energy says is not subject to the ban.

Irene Tang, of the Port of Taichung, told The Post that the ship’s last registered port is in Cambodia and that it was carrying silica sand. The Post could not confirm what kind of sand a second ship, identified by Mother Nature as being named Ocean Beauty, was carrying.

The Ministry of Mines and Energy last November banned sand exports after controversy arose from huge discrepancies between Cambodia’s recorded sand exports and Singapore’s recorded sand imports from the Kingdom.

In the video, which the group said was taken on April 29, Mother Nature showed the Deryoung Sunflower being loaded with white sand.

Meng Saktheara, spokesman for the Ministry of Mines and Energy, said after the video was released that it was “very likely” the ship was loaded with silica sand, which is exempt from the ban. Silica sand is mined on land, he added, rather than pumped from the sea, and is used for industrial purposes like for making glass.

Alex Gonzalez-Davidson, a founder of Mother Nature, said that when the government banned sand exports it made “no allusion whatsoever to exceptions” to the ban.

“For them to now say that silica sand can continue being exported is nothing but a pathetic lie that no one is going to believe,” he wrote in an email.

When asked what led Mother Nature to believe sea sand was being loaded on the ship, he called distinction between types of sand “totally irrelevant”.

He added his NGO would continue its investigation into whether dredged sea sand was still being illegally exported.

Ministry officials declined to comment yesterday, but said the ministry will release the findings of its investigation into the case today.

Two companies – Mong Reththy Group Co Ltd and Silica Services Cambodge – are licensed and had recent approval for exports of silica sand, although the locations of departure and the names of the boats did not match those of Ocean Beauty and the Deryoung Sunflower.

Cambodia Dismisses Claims of Illicit Sand Exports Despite Ban
Radio Free Asia 5 May 17;

Cambodia’s government on Friday dismissed accusations by an environmental group that the country is still exporting sand, despite a national ban, saying a vessel seen loading the material in a video the group posted on social media was doing nothing illicit.

On May 1, the NGO Mother Nature Cambodia posted a video to its Facebook page purportedly showing a vessel named the Deryoung Sunflower loading white sand for export in Sihanouk province’s Stung Hav district two days earlier.

On Friday, Cambodia’s Ministry of Mines and Energy said in a statement that Mother Nature did not accurately identify the vessel or its location in the video, and also gave the wrong time for when the video was taken.

It said the video claimed the vessel could carry up to 30,000 tons, while the Deryoung Sunflower can only load up to 8,679 tons, and that the Deryoung had left Cambodia on May 1 after gathering silica sand for producing glass, while the video was likely filmed afterwards.

The ministry banned sand exports in November 2016 after public outrage over large inconsistencies between Cambodia’s recorded sand exports and Singapore’s recorded sand imports from Cambodia, but has recently said that silica sand was not part of the ban.

Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, director of the NGO Mother Nature Cambodia, on Friday told RFA’s Khmer Service that the ministry’s response was “an excuse” and suggested that sand exports are continuing, despite the ban.

“We have collected ample evidence and I will absolutely not stop posting the videos on Facebook as the ministry has asked,” said the Spanish environmentalist, who was expelled from Cambodia in February 2015 after leading a campaign against a controversial dam and placed on a black list that prevents his return to the country.

“If we report sand exporting activities to the ministry, it will tell the owner of the vessels to destroy the evidence. The ministry has a record of collusion with criminals to destroy natural resources,” he said.

“By posting such activities on Facebook, we hope we can keep people informed and that it will lead to some sort of resolution.”

In the meantime, Gonzalez-Davidson said, the Deryoung Sunflower had arrived in Taiwan Friday with its cargo.

“The Taiwanese authorities told reporters that the sand was imported from Cambodia,” he said.

“We believe that the Deryoung Sunflower has stolen sand from Cambodia and we will do our best to pressure the Taiwanese authorities to take action against such illegal activities.”

The Phnom Penh Post quoted officials in Taiwan on Thursday confirming that the Deryoung was carrying sand to the country’s Port of Taichung, but said the sand was silica.

The Post was unable to confirm what kind of sand a second ship, identified by Mother Nature as being named Ocean Beauty, was carrying.

The paper also quoted Gonzalez-Davidson calling the government’s recent claim that silica sand was not part of the ban on exports “a pathetic lie,” adding that the type of sand on the Deryoung was “totally irrelevant.”

Mong Reththy Group Co Ltd and Silica Services Cambodge are two licensed companies that received recent approval for exports of silica sand, but the Post reported that the locations of departure and the names of the boats did not match those of Ocean Beauty or the Deryoung Sunflower.

Reported by Sonorng Kher for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Nareth Muong. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Ministry denies illegal sand exports
VEN RATHAVONG Khmer Times 8 May 17;

The Energy Ministry has responded to an NGO’s claims that illegal sand exports are continuing in Preah Sihanouk province, despite a government ban.

Cambodian NGO Mother Nature posted a video accusing the Deryoung Sunflower ship of illegally exporting sand.

However the ministry clarified that the ship was carrying silica sand which is not affected by the ban. Silica is used as a raw material to manufacture glass. It is different from ordinary sand as for royalty and tax applied.

It said the silica sand being shipped by the Deryoung Sunflower belonged to Mong Reththy Group Co Ltd, which has the appropriate licence for the work.

Mother Nature activist Lim Kimsor, who featured in the video, said she was not aware that silica was not part of the ban but she remain unconvinced by the government’s response and would discuss the issue further with colleagues.

After the controversial claim of NGOs and opposition party on the discrepancy of import and export figure of sand from Cambodia to Singapore based on UN Comtrade data base, the ministry has decided in November 2016 to temporary suspend the export of refill sand and construction sand until a new export procedure can be formulated.

But many environmental groups say sand dredging companies never stopped and may have even increased their intake of sand. According to a report from the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, millions of tonnes of sand have been dredged and exported to Singapore from Koh Kong’s estuaries since 2009.

Facing those recurrent accusations from NGOs, the ministry has called on those NGOs to provide relevant, useful and timely information or evidence of any suspicious illegal sand exports, via the ministry hotline 095727727, so that officials can jointly investigate and take timely legal action. “But it seems that Mother Nature prefers to work with the press, instead of collaborating directly with the ministry,” said Mr. Tina the ministry spokesman.

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