Authorities have vowed to seize fireworks and punish anyone caught letting off explosives as Lunar New Year celebrations get under way today.
The warning by the Phnom Penh municipality came as the Interior Ministry revealed plans to station more than 20 fire trucks around the city to combat any blazes sparked by the celebrations, during which fireworks are traditionally used to scare evil spirits.
In a statement released yesterday, City Hall urged caution when burning candles, incense sticks and charcoal, and also highlighted the ban on explosives during the four day festival.
“[People are] not allowed to burn firecrackers, fireworks or exploding things,” says the statement, which also prohibited gambling and unapproved religious marches.
“Authorities take seriously the ban on bringing firecrackers, fireworks and all kind of explosives into Phnom Penh and will seize them if they’re sold in the city.”
It added that anyone who contravened the ban would be punished.
Meanwhile, Thun Samorn, director of the Interior Ministry’s Department of Weapons, Explosions and Fire Management, said at least 20 fire engines would be deployed across the capital’s 12 districts, with a focus on sites including Wat Phnom, Koh Pich and the Royal Palace.
“Our principle is to spread the fire engines in all districts, tourism sites and every province in order to prevent and control fires on the New Year and help people in time,” he said.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen also urged caution during the festivities.
“People have to be careful with candles and incense sticks when they make offerings to spirits; if they start a fire, it makes suffering for only the firefighters,” Hun Sen said.
“They [firefighters] have to make an offering to their spirit, but they cannot, because they have to put the fire out.”
Fire Services Cambodia’s Paul Hurford said the increased fire risk also applied in the provinces, with recent weather creating dangerous conditions.
“There have been some scrub fires in the provinces recently because of the dryness,” he said.
According to Samorn, there were 514 fire cases last year including 18 fatalities.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING SHAUN TURTON