Environmental activists have released a letter from Prime Minister Hun Sen to the National Assembly penned in response to allegations of illegal sand dredging in Koh Kong province.
In the letter, Hun Sen dismisses claims by activist group Mother Nature of foreign ownership of the two firms in question – Direct Access and International Rainbow – naming a Bun Chan Kresna and Dok Raden as the Cambodian owners of the companies. The letter was written in response to opposition MP Son Chhay’s request for clarification on the matter.
“Both companies belong to Cambodian nationals and have been allowed to do sand dredging in Koh Kong legally. Those companies do not belong to Vietnam and have not taken part in ‘anarchic’ dredging as Son Chhay said,” Hun Sen wrote.
The letter provided some details of the companies’ activities and backgrounds, going on to say that they did “not encroach on other places” outside of their licence areas and complaining that the firms’ work had been disrupted by Mother Nature protests.
It also set out an economic argument for the positives of river dredging, which it asserted had benefitted local communities.
“Besides, the government continues to monitor the companies’ activities to ensure they do not affect people.”
Hun Sen banned sand dredging in 2011 after public outcry over its apparently harmful social and environmental impacts, but since then, a small number of dredging firms have continued to operate under specific licences granted by the Ministry of Mines and Energy.
Thun Ratha of Mother Nature yesterday said he was surprised that the government continued to defend the industry despite substantial documentary evidence of its ill effects.
“The letter did not mention how much money the government got from sand dredging,” he said. “They said locals welcomed this activity, but in fact they are not happy about it at all.”
Mother Nature activists San Mala, Try Sovikea and Sim Samnang remain in jail after being arrested for protesting sand dredging on August 19.