The Cambodian Embassy in London said Wednesday that the government was “angry” at Global Witness for it latest expose on sand dredging in Cambodia, calling the report “malicious and misleading.”
Global Witness responded by saying it stood by its report and upped the ante by calling on the Cambodian government to prove the report wrong by making public documents and information on the sand industry.
In a statement, the embassy quoted Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith as saying that a blanket ban on dredging sand for export was still effective. The embassy also called the Global Witness report “cheap and rubbish” and said the government had already “reacted angrily to malicious and misleading claims by an international trouble maker that sand-dredging operations in Cambodia are causing widespread environmental damage.”
The embassy went on to cite Mr Kanharith as saying that Global Witness had attacked the government in order to support opposition political parties in Cambodia.
“Their reports are always exaggerated far beyond the imagination and attack the Cambodian Government in order to try and bring political benefit to one of the smaller opposition parties,” the embassy statement said.
In a counterstatement, Global Witness stood by its report, which accused the government of not implementing a ban on dredging sand for export, and of giving licenses for dredging to CPP-affiliated businesses who supplied Singapore with millions of tons of sand, extracted without regard for environmental and social safeguards.
“If the Government believes our findings are an exaggeration, they should make the information about the sand dredging sector, contracts allocated, figures of exports and revenues received publicly available,” Global Witness said. The organization claimed it had documents showing that sand dredging concessions were issued after the government ban was introduced in May 2009.
Global Witness also struck back at a statement issued by Singapore rejecting the report’s claims that it had condoned large-scale import of Cambodian sand in breach of the ban on dredging. Singapore said it had not been officially informed of the Cambodian ban.
Singapore also denied that its import regulations were not adequate to ensure the imported sand was extracted with due regard for legal environmental safeguards in Cambodia.
“The Singapore government’s response does not answer the key allegation in our report—that their current approach to sourcing sand is enabling environmental destruction and corruption in Cambodia,” Global Witness campaigner George Boden said Wednesday.
Global Witness added that if Singapore wants to uphold its reputation as a regional leader in environmental sustainability “it must address the report’s concerns directly by introducing effective regulations for companies sourcing sand from outside its borders.”