Singaporean Officials Rebuff CNRP Questions Over Sand Exports

Singaporean officials last week declined a request by CNRP parliamentarians to release documents related to the city-state’s controversial import of Cambodian sand, opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said on Sunday.

In a letter dated March 7, 10 CNRP lawmakers requested that Michael Tan, the Singaporean ambassador to Cambodia, and his government release records related to the country’s import of Cambodian sand from 2007 through 2016, after evidence emerged last year of a massive discrepancy in the amount of Cambodian sand imported by Singapore.

cam graphic sand md
Differing accounts of sand trade from Cambodia to Singapore, measured in metric tons.

“Failure to effectively allay these suspicions and to collaborate with us might tarnish the reputation of Singapore, a country regarded as being one of Asia’s most transparent and least corrupt,” the lawmakers wrote.

The embassy’s first secretary met with Mr. Chhay on Tuesday to discuss the request, Mr. Chhay said on Sunday. But the official told the lawmaker that the hearing was merely a courtesy.

“They don’t respond to the opposition or NGOs…just the government,” Mr. Chhay said. “I think that the Singapore side is trying to hide something. They are not honest with us.”

Singapore recorded importing about 70 million more tons of sand from Cambodia than Cambodia reported sending to the island from 2007 to 2015, according to data sent by both countries to the U.N. Commodity Trade Statistics Database.

The data show that in recent years, Cambodia has become the leading sand supplier for Singapore, the world’s top sand importer, to buttress the island’s massive reclamation projects.

Officials from Singapore’s embassy and regulatory body involved in sand imports did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

But Mr. Chhay said the first secretary repeated his government’s confidence in its statistics, saying that “the Cambodian government might calculate [exports] in its own way.”

Officials from Cambodia’s Mines and Energy Ministry have suggested that shippers may have illicitly imported sand from other countries using the Cambodian flag.

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