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Mining Minister Questioned Over Alleged Sand Export Graft


This Aug. 2, 2011 photo shows a sand depot just outside the provincial capital of Koh Kong in southwestern Cambodia. It is owned by Ly Yong Phat, one of the country's biggest tycoons who is being criticized for the environmental damage his sand mining operations inflict on the Cambodian coast. Most of the sand is destined for Singapore. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

The head of parliament’s anti-corruption commission has criticized the minister of mines for dodging questions on an apparent $750 million discrepancy in reported exports of sand to Singapore since 2001.

The head of parliament’s anti-corruption commission has criticized the minister of mines for dodging questions on an apparent $750 million discrepancy in reported exports of sand to Singapore since 2001.

Suy Sem, minister of mines and energy, was called in front of the commission after a group of NGOs analyzed U.N. trade figures and found a 70 million ton shortfall in what Cambodia had reported as being exported to Singapore, compared with the island nation’s imports data.

Ho Vann, an opposition lawmaker who heads the anti-corruption commission, said after the three-hour questioning session, that Sem had blamed the discrepancy on different trade reporting categorizations.

Sem declined to answer reporters’ questions after the meeting.

Dith Tina, ministry spokesman, said the figures were markedly different due to different reporting standards.

“This is what the U.N. COMTRADE writes on its database,” he said. “We are not sure about the reporting system in Singapore, therefore, we cannot decide who is right and who is wrong,” he said.

San Chey, executive director of the League of Social Accountability Cambodia, one of the NGOs who analyzed the U.N. data, expressed doubts about the explanation offered by the ministry.

“If the sand was illegally exported, it would have adverse effects on the national revenue and the amount of illegal sand mining would also increase,” he said.

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