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Disaster Management Law passes Assembly

A new Law on Disaster Management sailed through the National Assembly yesterday, with Prime Minister Hun Sen promising a more rapid and coordinated response across government agencies.

The premier, who also serves as president of the National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM), said the law – which received 96 of 99 possible votes – will provide much-needed flexibility.

“We can immediately use the police and local authorities, coupled with the aid of the Red Cross, during times of disasters and natural disasters,” he said, describing it as a “total force” approach.

“Through this new law, we can do a better job.”

He added that for smaller scale disasters, such as minor fire destruction, local authorities must still bear the responsibility.

“There are some cases in which we need to determine the degree of disaster; not every incident is a disaster. If one, two or four houses are burned, that’s not so serious that it requires the NCDM to take action.”

A key article passed on the floor last week will also hold authorities accountable for their competence in disaster response. Officials found to have skirted their responsibilities will be held culpable for serious damage and sentenced to up to two years in prison and a fine of 1 million to 5 million riel (about $250 to $1,250).

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