KOH Kong province’s controversial sand export trade appears to have drawn to a halt, though local companies are attempting to restore contacts with Singaporean sand contractors, officials said.
Pech Siyon, director of the provincial Department of Industry, Mines and Energy, said yesterday that the last licenced dredging company in Koh Kong – local firm Udom Seima Trading – had wound up its sand export operations over the past few weeks. The company is currently in the process of shipping a 1,000-cubic-metre sample of sand to Singapore, he said, and is awaiting word from a potential client there.
“There were two shipments today and yesterday and there will be one last shipment,” he said. “We don’t know when they will answer. There is no market now, so there is no dredging activity.” He said he did not know the Singaporean company’s name.
In May, anti-graft watchdog Global Witness reported that up to 796,000 tonnes of sand was being removed from Koh Kong each month and sent to Singapore, where it is used in construction and reclamation projects. It argued that the trade had destroyed livelihoods and threatened marine ecosystems.
At the time, Pech Siyon said that only Udom Seima was still operating, and that a joint venture by the local LYP Group and the Hong Kong-based firm Winton Enterprises – one of the main operations mentioned in the report – had been suspended pending the renewal of its licence.
A representative of Udom Seima, who did not give his name, said the company was suspending its export operations for a year because its Singaporean export quotas had “expired”.
“We are waiting for Singapore to open a new quota for export,” he said. “They have just said the quota will open this month and then that month, but so far no one has contacted us.”
Global Witness campaigner Eleanor Nichol said her organisation was not aware of any official change of policy in either country, but that any news of an export suspension was to be applauded.
“If sand exports from Koh Kong to Singapore have really been suspended, then this is great news for both the local environment and local fishermen,” she said. “We hope this suspension signifies that the Singapore government is taking the concerns raised by us ... and by others, seriously.”