Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday rebuffed claims that the government had used the 36.5 tonnes of gold Cambodia has retained as foreign exchange reserves to pay for its ongoing fight against Covid-19.
His statement came in response to a claim by Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, the founder of environmental NGO Mother Nature.
In a Facebook post, Gonzalez-Davidson dared the government to produce documents on the exact amount of gold Cambodia has retained.
He cited a speech purportedly made by Hun Sen in October last year that Cambodia had 30 tonnes of gold as foreign exchange reserves – 12 tonnes in Switzerland, 15 tonnes in England, and three tonnes in the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC).
Gonzalez-Davidson said the 30 tonnes of gold is worth around $1.7 billion in today’s market prices.
“I am sure everyone will be happy to hear such news, especially now that the Covid-19 nightmare is causing massive economic upheaval in Cambodia and across the world, and the Cambodian government could face economic hardships – it could run out of cash to pay salaries of civil servants, etc.
“However, there is a small problem with what Samdech Techo [Hun Sen] claims. Cambodia is not reporting to international institutions [International Monetary Fund, etc] that it has 30 tonnes of gold.
“It reports it only has around 12.4 tonnes. That gap is 17.5 tonnes of gold worth $1 billion,” Gonzalez-Davidson wrote.
“So, this is my question … maybe some of you can help share it so Samdech Techo or some of his spokespeople can shine some light upon this rather mysterious issue.
“Does Samdech have any proof or documents showing that the Cambodian State does indeed have 30 tonnes of gold [monetary gold in more specific terms]?
“Doing so would show that those respectable international institutions are not using the correct figures, and would give a few of us some peace of mind,” he continued.
In an apparent response to Gonzalez-Davidson, Hun Sen on Thursday took to Facebook with an attached statement from the NBC on the amount of gold Cambodia has in reserve.
“Recently, some of our compatriots want to know about gold, which is the national reserve. The curiosity of a large number of people is integrity because it belongs to the nation, but a small number of bad people are using a lack of information about gold to attack the government – that it wants to defraud gold during the Covid-19 pandemic because they have not heard Hun Sen talk about gold again.
“To be clear about gold, look at the explanation of the NBC, you will surely understand that our nation’s reserves are growing steadily.
“About a year ago I announced that our gold is 30 tonnes, but according to the new figures, our gold is up to 36.5 tonnes. This is not poor management of the national economy,” Hun Sen said.
An NBC statement released on Wednesday said Cambodia’s current foreign reserves (including foreign currency and gold) amounted to $19.5 billion by the end of June this year.
The NBC wrote it currently holds 36.5 tonnes of gold, including 12.4 tonnes of pre-war gold stored in Switzerland, 14.1 tonnes invested in the Bank of England and 10 tonnes stored in Cambodia.
“The NBC must regularly report all figures of the international reserve to national and international authorities,” the statement said.