Ta Sophea does an in situ press conference before marching towards the residence of PM Hun Sen, to demand the release of her husband from jail. (March 2016)
SAND MINING SCAM
The Cambodian government is infamous across the world not just for its persecution of political and civil rights leaders, but also for relentlessly selling the country's natural resources to the highest bidders. In total violation to the country's constitution, relevant laws, and international treaties, it has for the last 20 years allowed criminal-like syndicates to over-exploit its forests, rivers, estuaries, lakes, seas, etc, with the ultimate aim of fabulously enriching a tiny elite. The state gets next to nothing in revenue, local communities are left off far worse than before these so-called 'development projects' started, and needless to say Cambodia's environment continues to suffer massively.
The mining of sand from coastal Koh Kong is
by no means different. Corrupt government
officials and their crooked business partners
have used the power of the state (relevant
ministries, taxation department, law
enforcement agencies, the courts, etc) to
provide a veneer of legality to the sand
mining, to coordinate the mining operations,
and to fence off any attempts to expose the
sector's blatant illegality as well as the huge
social, environmental and economic impacts
it has caused . The Cambodian government
falsely claims that Koh Kong's coastal estuaries
naturally carry 'too much sand', and as such
need dredging and deepening so that they can be 'more navigable for local boats', and to reduce riverbank erosion and floods in the area. In short, it paints the mining as not just needed but also beneficial to the local fishing communities.
When our campaign first got off the ground in April of 2015, it was aimed at mobilizing local fishing communities, whose livelihoods had been ravaged by the sand mining, and peacefully demanding an end to the massive sand extraction operation. After a growing anti sand mining movement in coastal Koh Kong, the mafia-like groups that control the sand mining scam struck back, and ordered the imprisonment of three of the MNC activists who had been coordinating the campaign. After 10 and a half months of pre-trial detention in Koh Kong's extremely overcrowded prison, and
despite no incriminating witnesses,
culprits, victims, and no actual crime
beng committed, the judge still
managed to find the three activists
guilty and ordered them to pay
US$26,500 in compensation and fines.
Though the activists are, as of June
2017, free, there is a very real threat
they could be sent back to jail for
another two years as a result of the
amount mentioned above.
Starting in October 2016, MNC started
exposing the massive fraud and tax
evasion the sand mining and export
sector had been mired in since the first
mining operations started in 2007.
Official government documents on
import & export show that the vast majority of the sand that left from Cambodia to countries like Singapore was 'missing' from Cambodian government data on exports. It might have magically disappeared from Cambodian data on exports, but it still appeared on data on imports of Cambodian sand in countries like Singapore, India and Taiwan, as well as in the United Nations Database for trade data UN Comtrade.
Click here for a compilation of documents related to the sand mining that is decimating coastal Koh Kong.
Mother Nature Cambodia Inc.
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What's the environmental impact of Cambodia's sand mining?
Al Jazeera / 20 December, 2016
Singapore, in their relentless hunger for territorial expansion, has been complicit in the destruction of Cambodia's pristine mangrove forests of Koh Kong, and has turned a blind eye to the massive irregularities mired in the export of sand out of Cambodia.
How could 70 millions tons of sand in exports to Singapore have disappeared from Cambodia's Customs and Excise figures? This cartoon, gifted to us by Spain's top cartoonists 'Gallego y Rey', provides a clue as to what happened to this sand, valued at US$700 million.