Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay yesterday submitted a letter to National Assembly President Heng Samrin to forward to Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem requesting more information on sand-dredging operations and a sand-processing facility in Koh Kong province, following a recent ban on exports from the area.
While Chhay congratulated the ministry for permanently banning sand exports from Koh Kong, he said there are still a few loopholes in the new measures, such as a recently built sand-washing facility within the Tatai Wildlife Sanctuary.
“We want the ministry to explain when they are going to dismantle or get rid of those facilities to ensure that those operations don’t continue in this area,” Chhay said by phone yesterday.
Assembly spokesman Leng Peng Long said he had not yet seen the letter, and didn’t know whether it would be signed by Samrin and sent on to Sem.
According to the letter, the ministry’s prakas and guidelines don’t include the Andoung Tuek River, and large-scale dredging is approved in two areas of the Koh Por River, with no limit on the number of operations.
Chhay added that he also wants the ministry to provide more details on the areas where sand dredging is allowed.
Chhay in the letter also requests information on the kind of mechanism the ministry will use to enforce the measures.
“Because within the last 10 years, billions of tonnes of sand and mud-sand were [extracted] and smuggled illegally from Koh Kong,” the letter reads.
Chhay is also still waiting to receive a response on his request for clarification on silica sand exports, which he submitted in mid-June.
“If they don’t officially respond to us, [the ministry] is not just violating the Constitution, but is raising concerns that the ministry has something to hide – that they’ve done something wrong,” he said.
Under the Constitution, a minister must provide a verbal or written response within seven days of receiving the questions.
The Mines Ministry said yesterday that some elements of the request fell outside of its purview and that it would seek advice on how to respond.
If Sem does not respond, Chhay said they can begin a process to impeach him, though he didn’t know “how cooperative” the ruling party members would be.
At least 30 members of parliament need to request impeachment in order to push the matter to a vote in the Assembly, which is controlled by the ruling party.