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Mines minister told to take reins

Mines minister told to take reins

Prime Minister Hun Sen has sent a stark warning to Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem over illegal sand dredging: the buck stops with you.

During the official opening of the Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel in the capital yesterday, a project which itself required a large amount of sand dredging, Hun Sen took aim at Suy Sem, saying he should take sole responsibility for the problem.

“Mr Minister of Mines and Energy, from now on, the sand on the mainland, in streams, rivers and the ocean is your responsibility,” he said. “If you are in prison, you only imprisoned yourself,” he added.

Illegal sand dredging is rife in Cambodia and large-scale operations in the past have been linked to government officials, including Cambodian People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat, who dredged heavily in the Tatai River and other parts of Koh Kong province.

Meng Saktheara, secretary of state at the Ministry of Mines and Energy, said on Sunday that full authority over the dredging business had been transferred to the ministry, adding that only 10 companies were currently registered to dredge for sand.

Many others, he said, had seen their licences expire and would not be issued new ones, but were continuing to collect sand on an industrial scale to meet orders and provide wages for workers.

Previously, a sand committee acted as a go-between for several government departments, a system Hun Sen said was “too complicated” and resulted in officials dodging the blame for their failures.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY VONG SOKHENG

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