Opposition to Question Three Ministers

Pech Sotheary / Khmer Times No Comments Share:

Several of the opposition-led commissions in the National Assembly have plans to summon three ministers to clarify several ongoing issues, including the sand exports to Singapore and the murder of political analyst Kem Ley.
During a Tuesday evening press conference at the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) headquarters, party spokesperson Yim Sovann said the opposition will address three issues – the government’s slow investigation into the murder of Mr. Ley, the drop in prices of agricultural products as well as the discrepancy in the data of sand exported to Singapore, which some claim has left millions of dollars unaccounted for.
The CNRP will summon Interior Minister Sar Kheng to explain why the government has kept quiet over the murder of Mr. Ley.
“This is to urge the government to eliminate impunity in Cambodian society, so we will continue our action in seeking justice for Dr. Kem Ley,” Mr. Sovann said.
Mr. Ley was murdered nearly three months ago at a gas station cafe in Phnom Penh and despite the arrest of key suspect Eurth Ang, little information has been released by authorities amid increasing calls for more transparency in the case.
The Interior Ministry’s spokesperson Khieu Sopheak, however, could not be reached for comment.
Mr. Sovann said the opposition also plans to summon Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon to quiz him on the falling price of agricultural products, which has adversely affected the lives of Cambodian farmers and made it difficult for them to market their goods.
Rice farmers have been grappling with the plunge in rice prices, on top of their struggles to repay loans. This resulted in the Rural Development Bank (RDB) announcing in September that rice millers in the country would have access to the government’s promised emergency loan of $20 million to purchase rice from farmers in a bid to prevent prices falling further.
Despite this, the RDB has said that the response to the scheme has been lukewarm as many small- and medium-sized farmers struggled to meet the bank’s 150 tons per day storage capacity requirement, among other things.
Rubber producers were also struggling as the price of rubber was about $1,030 per ton early this year. In 2014 the price was between $1,700 and $1,800 per ton and now, global rubber prices have been near their lowest levels since 2009 due to oversupply and declining demand from China, industry experts have said.
However, the rubber sector has started bouncing back as exports have risen last month despite the stalled global demand, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Data released last month by the ministry showed exports up to September were up almost 11 percent from the same period last year.
The CNRP’s Mr. Sovann, who heads the Anti-corruption Commission, said the third minister the opposition plans to summon will be Suy Sem, the Minister of Mines and Energy, over the issue of sand exports to Singapore.
“The factual report had a figure related to the export of millions of tons of sand from Cambodia to sell to Singapore, but the figures confirmed in Cambodia were only between six and seven  million tons,” he said.
“So there is a large amount of national income loss, so the Anti-corruption Commission will look into this matter and we will call on the government to answer at the National Assembly,” he said.
According to the UN Commodity Trade (UN Comtrade) Statistics Database, Cambodia reportedly exported 2.8 million tons of sand to Singapore between 2007 and 2015, amounting to $5.5 million.
However the same database showed that Singapore imported 72.7 million tons of sand from Cambodia, amounting to $752 million. This has resulted in transparency and environmental groups calling on the ministry to explain the $750 million discrepancy.
On Monday, 47 civil societies also issued an open letter to the ministry seeking a clarification on the same issue.
In a September interview with Khmer Times, Dith Tina, a secretary of state and a spokesman for the ministry, quoted the disclaimer of the UN database which stated that: “Imports reported by one country do not coincide with exports reported by its trading partner. Differences are due to various factors including valuation (imports CIF, exports FOB), differences in inclusions/exclusions of particular commodities, timing etc.”
“Section V of the UN COMTRADE report states that  data are provided for internal use only and may not be re-disseminated in any form without the written permission of the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD.
In response to the opposition’s plan to summon the minister, Mr. Tina said the ministry will respond in accordance to the procedures in place.
“The ministry respects the rules, procedures and working communication between the National Assembly and the government. We will follow the procedures of the parliament and the government,” he said.
“There is nothing to hide, but the main point is that if someone is using this problem just for political purposes…so the public must see it is a political excuse,” he said, adding that he will also respond to the open letter from the civil societies in a bid to ensure that the public is fully aware that the country’s natural resources belong to all Cambodians.

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