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Speaking in Parliament yesterday (Jan 22), an unnamed spokesperson* of the Ministry of National Development (MND) said that the government is unable to provide figures to clear its name of sand smuggling from the Cambodia government.

*(Unnamed spokesperson of different ministries are now reported by the state media to protect each minister’s reputation.)

According to the submitted sand export figures to United Nations, the data show that Singapore government reported a total of 73.6 million tonnes of sand import from Cambodia since 2007. However the Cambodia government reported only a figure more than 27 times smaller at 2.7 million tonne.

The Singapore government avoided Cambodia’s repeated requests for an explanation until States Times Review carried the report on 10 Dec 2016.

Read: Cambodia: Singapore government made falseful declaration of illegally-sourced sand for years

Blaming contractors, the anonymous MND spokesperson said:

“We are unable to verify this as the figures reported by various parties and countries are dependent on their own calculation formulas that the ministry is not privy to.”

MND however was quick to declare that Singapore government is unaware of any smuggled sand imports and it blames contractors for the huge discrepancy in the report:

“Singapore sets strict criteria for imports of sand, including on environmental protection, but reiterated that sand is imported on a commercial basis and it is the contractors who must meet the criteria. It also said that Singapore has not come across any illegal shipments of sand here.”

Singapore has been using sand imports from neighbouring country for land reclamation but the activity devastates marine ecology in the provider countries. Malaysia banned sand export to Singapore in 1997, while Indonesia did so in 2007. Cambodia has just recently join in the ban in Nov 2016.

This is also the Singapore government’s second brush with law for it’s illegal sand import activities. In 2010, anti-corruption NGO Global Witness singled out Singapore as a major buyer of the illegal sand trade.