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Authorities accuse investment group of illegal sand-dredging

Authorities accuse investment group of illegal sand-dredging

Attwood Investment Group denies the charges from Sihanouk officials.

PREAH Sihaknouk provincial authorities have warned the Attwood Investment Group to stop exporting sand or risk having its sand-dredging vessels confiscated by the government, a provincial official told the Post Monday.

The Attwood Investment Group is a diversified Cambodian investment conglomerate that manages the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone, the Otress Special Economic Zone and the Stung Hav International Port.

"This company used vessels that could hold between 30,000 and 40,000 tonnes of sand for export," said Sok Phorn, the deputy cabinet director of Preah Sihanouk province. "We must fight this company."

On July 2, provincial authorities temporarily confiscated more than 30 sand-dredging vessels. The boats' owners, Sok Phorn said, admitted that the boats were unlicensed and worked for Attwood.

Meng Yean, a representative from Attwood, said that she was questioned by authorities on Monday, and that the ships have been returned.

"[We admitted] some vessels that we imported for our project we did not pay taxes on. Now, we will file the proper documents and pay taxes to the government," she said.

She denied, however, that Attwood was exporting sand, saying that the sand was for the development of the Stung Hav International Port.

"Our company has never exported sand. We were dredging to fill in land at the special economic zone in Stung Hav for the construction of a seaport," she said.

Sok Phorn said officials believed Attwood had been exporting sand because at least two sand-dredging vessels were located in a shipping lane leaving Cambodian waters.

Local fishermen said such dredging activity posed a threat to local marine life.

"Illegal sand dredging has destroyed the fish shelters and damaged our livelihoods," said Ros Hak, a fisherman in Thmor Rong village in Preah Sihanouk.

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