The Mondulkiri Provincial Court and mines and energy officials said they are investigating illegal sand exports to Vietnam following the questioning of four people who were intercepted yesterday by authorities driving truckloads of sand toward the eastern border.
Officials will also investigate an official at the Labakhe border checkpoint in Keo Seima district who allegedly let 10 trucks loaded with sand pass into Vietnam earlier this week.
San Darith, director of the provincial Department of Mines and Energy, said the four trucks were heading toward the Labakhe border police checkpoint, but after officials intercepted them, they claimed they were selling the sand to villagers near the border, and went on to unload some of the sand at villagers’ homes, despite there being no visible construction underway. They also claimed they were selling sand to the border checkpoint office, where they also unloaded sand.
“We suspected that the sand [was going to be] hauled to Vietnam,” Darith said. “But we intercepted [them], so they just sold the sand to the villagers nearby.”
Darith said that earlier this week local media had reported that border police official Horn Keaseng allowed more than 10 trucks loaded with sand into Vietnam for the construction of a building. Each truck was allegedly loaded with about 25 cubic metres of sand.
Darith said the intercepted sand was coming from Kratie province. Mines and Energy Ministry spokesman Meng Saktheara said the sand depot in Kratie has a dredging licence.
“The source of the sand is legal, but what’s illegal is the export of sand,” Saktheara said, adding that exporting requires a permit, and that the Ministry of Mines and Energy had not issued any export permits since late last year when it issued a ban on sand exports.
Saktheara said that the depot sells sand to anyone and buyers can send it anywhere. The drivers claimed to be employed by a person who bought sand from the depot. Yet Saktheara also said he doubted their claims that the sand was destined for private villagers living along the border.
“This has to be investigated further,” he said.
Mondulkiri Provincial Court spokesman Morm Vanda said the drivers were allowed to go home because there was not enough evidence to hold them, but that the court would continue to investigate.
Late last month, villagers in Kratie’s Krakor village held a protest to demand that authorities halt sand dredging in the area, and alleged that sand was being exported to Vietnam.
Additional reporting by Yesenia Amaro