Cambodia: Opposition Official Seeks More Information on Silica Sand Exports

BEN PAVIOUR and SEK ODOM Cambodia Daily 15 Jun 17;

CNRP lawmaker Son Chhay has formally asked Mines and Energy Minister Suy Sem to provide detailed trade records for silica sand, the only variety of sand still allowed to leave Cambodia after an export ban was enacted last year amid corruption allegations.

The minister must “not just say things, but provide evidence,” Mr. Chhay said on Sunday, adding that he might ask parliament to summon Mr. Sem for a second round of sand trade-related questioning after he denied any trade irregularities in December.

The ministry suspended sand exports and new dredging licenses in a memo posted to its Facebook page on November 2 after months of accusations of misdeeds tied to enormous monetary discrepancies in records of sand exports to Singapore.

But in the request signed by Mr. Chhay last Friday, the lawmaker said the National Assembly had never been notified of the ban’s details, or of a later clarification on May 2 that exempted silica sand, which, unlike Singapore-bound sea sand, is mined from the ground.

Mr. Chhay asked the minister to “provide more documents and detail related to the announcement by the Mines and Energy Ministry after environmental activists and media described irregularities and suspicions of corruption over the business of sea sand exports.”

The letter, which National Assembly President Heng Samrin forwarded to Mr. Sem on Tuesday, requests the names of registered silica sand dredgers, the places they mine, environmental impact assessments completed on those sites, and documentation related to the quantity and destination of silica sand exports.

Alex Gonzalez-Davidson, the exiled head of environmental NGO Mother Nature, which has spearheaded activism against dredging, said he was concerned about silica sand exports as they enriched the alleged culprits of past ecological destruction.

“Cambodia is sadly becoming more and more of a mafia state, and as such the exploitation of natural resources is nothing but an opportunity for those in charge of state organs to become filthy rich,” he said.


Son Chhay plans to summon mines minister regarding sand
Meas Sokchea Phnom Penh Post 23 Jun 17;

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said yesterday he now plans to summon Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem for questioning in parliament after he failed to respond to his inquiry in writing regarding information on the export of silica sand.

Chhay, who is also planning to summon Labour Minister Ith Sam Heng, said the requests to appear for questioning will be delivered late this month when National Assembly President Heng Samrin returns from a mission abroad.

In a June 9 letter, Chhay requested Sem to provide information and documents related to silica sand extraction and exports, in response to revelations that the specific type of sand is exempt from a ban on sand exports.

“As principle, [Sem] must answer,” he said. “We have not seen his reply. So, it’s an abuse of the Constitution.”

Under the Constitution, a minister must provide a verbal or written response within seven days of receiving questions from lawmakers, Chhay noted.

Last year, the Mines Ministry temporarily suspended sand exports after controversy erupted over the discrepancy between the $5 million of sand exports to Singapore that Cambodia recorded from 2007 to 2015 and the $752 million that the city-state recorded as imports from the Kingdom.

Chhay also plans to summons Sam Heng – one of three ministers instructed by Prime Minister Hun Sen in February to ignore any requests by the opposition to appear before lawmakers at the assembly.

National Assembly spokesman Leng Peng Long said lawmakers have the right to summons government officials, but he said the questioning shouldn’t be used for “political gain.” In such cases, he said, the Assembly and Hun Sen would not allow the ministers to appear for questioning.

Chhay called on Sam Heng to appear in the National Assembly to answer questions about garment workers and migrant workers living in Thailand who weren’t able to travel to their hometowns to vote during the June 4 commune elections.

Dith Tina, a spokesman with the Ministry of Mines and Energy, said the ministry would respond to the opposition lawmaker’s inquiries, and that his questions required more than “simple answers that can be done within seven days”.

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