Minister of Water Resources and Meteorology Lim Kean Hor said Monday that he would seek an investigation into a $1.5-million haul of river sand exported to India in April in spite of a ban on the export of dredged sand handed down by Prime Minister Hun Sen in 2009.
India’s Deccan Chronicle reported last week that about 30,000 tons of Cambodian river sand had been sitting on the docks of the southern Indian port city of Cochin for more than six months, having been repeatedly denied customs clearance since its arrival.
Documents from a case at the Kerala State High Court over the quarantine of the consignment revealed a Koh Kong province river as the origin of the sand.
Mr. Kean Hor said that he would like to see the export of the sand investigated but explained that the Committee for Sand Resources Management within his ministry only had the power to request such an investigation and not actually carry one out.
“Our committee does not have the authority to do this job, but I will submit a proposal to Samdech Prime Minister,” he said, referring to Mr. Hun Sen.
“I will begin this soon, but I have to wait to get a clear source of evidence” concerning the exports, he said.
“We have measures to research and then ask for an investigation,” he added, declining to say exactly when he would send a request for investigation to Mr. Hun Sen.
Mr. Kean Hor referred further questions about river sand exports to the Ministry of Economy and Finance’s General Department of Taxation, saying that his ministry was not involved in licensing or monitoring exports.
Several officials at the General Department of Taxation as well as Nget Borey, Mr. Hun Sen’s deputy cabinet chief, could not be reached for comment.
Neou Ra, an officer in Mr. Hun Sen’s cabinet, said he did not know about sand exports and declined to comment further on the possibility of an investigation.
A series of videos posted to YouTube in March and April show the river sand in Koh Kong province being dredged and placed onto a vessel identified in court documents as the ship that arrived at the port in Cochin.
The person who uploaded the videos last week referred questions to LYP Group, which previously held a controversial license to dredge sand in Koh Kong and is owned by prominent businessman and CPP Senator Ly Yong Phat.
The Ministry of Water Resources previously sought to investigate LYP’s dredging activities in Koh Kong in July 2011, briefly ordering operations halted.
Repeated attempts to reach Mr. Yong Phat or a representative of his company for comment have been unsuccessful.
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