Cambodia says ‘loopholes’ may have led to oil theft as NGOs urge investigation – Radio Free Asia
An oil tanker with nearly 300,000 barrels of crude that went missing last month may have left Cambodia unnoticed due to “shortcomings” in enforcement, a ruling party spokesman said on Friday, while NGOs Locals called on the government to investigate any possible official role in the alleged theft.
The MT Strovolos, the vessel carrying the oil, was seized by Indonesian authorities on July 17 when the Bahamian-flagged tanker anchored off Sumatra with its identification system disabled, three days after Phnom Penh issued an Interpol Red Notice regarding the alleged theft.
Sok Ey San, spokesman for Cambodia’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party, said on Friday that “the failings of the authorities may have contributed to the leak of the oil tanker from Cambodia”, but this proper follow-up led to the arrests.
“When we lost the tanker, we asked for international help, like Interpol, to intervene. In general, we have now done everything that we are supposed to do, ”he said.
Indonesian Navy arrested ship, captain and crew solely on the basis of navigation violations, not in response to Interpol’s advice, navy spokesman said. , First Admiral Julius Widjojono, speaking in response to a request for comment from BenarNews, an online news service affiliated with RFA.
“In the diplomatic note or the red notice sent by the Cambodian government to the foreign ministry, there was no request for the return of crude oil to Cambodia,” Widjojono said. “The return of evidence will depend on a court ruling,” he added.
Call to investigate
The Cambodian government must now fully investigate how so much oil was so easily removed from the country, an NGO employee told RFA, adding that local authorities may have been involved in allowing the flight.
“We need to thoroughly investigate this matter and release a report to the public. How could they steal such a large amount of crude oil? said Yong Kim Eng, president of the People’s Center for Development and Peace.
Pech Pisey, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia (TI Cambodia), also called on Phnom Penh to work with the Indonesian government to bring back the Strovolos to resolve outstanding issues with Singapore-based oil and gas company KrisEnergy, which had praised the tanker for oil storage.
“It is important to bring back the tanker in order to solve this problem with the other parties concerned,” he said, adding that the theft of the oil should serve as a lesson for Cambodia for its future relations with foreign investors.
The crew of the tanker is not paid
KrisEnergy, which had worked with Phnom Penh to support Cambodia’s efforts, abandoned in 2019, to extract its own oil, had filed for liquidation in June but was unable to pay the tanker’s crew, according to a report from AFP spinning.
Speaking to RFA on Thursday, Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan said the Foreign Ministry and the Cambodian Embassy in Indonesia had asked the Indonesian government to return the tanker and its oil, but did not had so far received no response.
The loss of Strovolos and its oil is a source of embarrassment for Cambodia, said Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, founder of the environmental protection group Mother Nature of Cambodia.
“It affected the reputation of [Prime Minister] Hun Sen and Cambodia. The Cambodian government has no transparency and is full of corruption, and corruption may have been involved [in the tanker’s escape],” he said.
“I don’t think Cambodia will get the tanker back anytime soon. It could take years. And it will affect other investors as well, ”he said.
Reported by the Khmer service of RFA. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Richard Finney.