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S’pore president to visit amid sand controversy

Singapore President Tony Tan waves duringa visit to Tokyo late last year. Photo: Toru Yamanaka Pool/AFP
Singapore President Tony Tan waves duringa visit to Tokyo late last year. Photo: Toru Yamanaka Pool/AFP

S’pore president to visit amid sand controversy

Officials were tight-lipped yesterday about whether huge discrepancies in sand exports to Singapore would be discussed during a visit by the city-state’s president to the Kingdom later this week, though a Ministry of Mines official said a new export process was in the works.

President Tony Tan Keng Yam is scheduled to visit Cambodia from January 8 through 11, according to a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As part of the visit, Keng Yam is scheduled to hold bilateral talks with Prime Minister Hun Sen and sign two agreements.

The visit comes on the heels of revelations that Singapore recorded 72.7 million tonnes of sand imported from Cambodia from 2007 to 2015 – worth $752 million – while the Kingdom only recorded 2.8 million tonnes – worth $5.5 million in exports for the same period.

Dith Tina, spokesman for the Ministry of Mines, declined to comment on whether the ministry had plans to discuss the controversy with the Singaporean president.

However, Tina said a suspension of coastal sand exports was still in effect and that the ministry was developing a new export mechanism. “We just need to improve our export process.”

Neither Singaporean officials nor officials at the Cambodian Foreign Ministry responded to requests for comment.

Alex Gonzalez-Davidson, a founder of NGO Mother Nature, said the group had engaged a law firm to investigate whether any laws were broken in the city-state by either sand importers or government regulators.

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