The Singaporean government Tuesday denied condoning the large-scale import of Cambodian sand in breach of Cambodia’s own export ban, saying it was unaware of the ban because it had not received official notification from Cambodia, media outlets in Singapore reported Tuesday.
In a report released Tuesday, environmental campaigners Global Witness said hundreds of thousands of tons of sand have been extracted from Koh Kong province to feed Singapore’s hunger for building materials.
Singapore also refuted Global Witness’ claim that the city-state was not doing enough to ensure its sand suppliers observed social and environmental safeguards, saying the responsibility to regulate operations fell to the Cambodian government and not Singapore, according to Singaporean media reports.
In a statement cited by The Straits Times, Singapore’s Ministry of National Development said the Global Witness report “suggests that the Singapore Government seeks to import sand without due regard to the laws or environmental impact of the source country, in this case, Cambodia. This is not true.”
“[W]e do not condone the illegal export or smuggling of sand, or any extraction of sand that is in breach of the source countries’ laws and rules on environmental protection,” the ministry said. “We have not received any official notice on the ban of sand exports from Cambodia,” it added.
The Global Witness report accused the Cambodian government of not implementing a 2009 ban on dredging sand for export, and giving licenses to CPP senators Ly Yong Phat and Mong Reththy and other businessmen to supply Singapore with millions of tons of sand that were extracted without conducting legally required environmental and social impact assessments prior to dredging operations.
Global Witness called on Singapore, which imported 3.8 million tons of Cambodian sand in 2008, according to a UN trade database, to assert its influence as the main buyer of Cambodian sand and monitor where it is sourced and how it is extracted.
The Singaporean government said, however, enforcement of the ban and environmental safeguards on dredging are “ultimately the responsibility of the source country,” according to The Straits Times.
Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said he could not comment on the Singaporean statement, as he did not know if the government had sent a diplomatic note to inform Singapore regarding the sand export ban after its introduction in May last year.
Bun Hean, secretary of state at the Water Resources Ministry, and Council of Ministers’ spokesman Phay Siphan both said they were unable to comment on Singapore’s statement as they had not seen it.