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Fires torch property, forests

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A forest fire burns in Siem Reap province’s Svay Leu district on February 1. Agriculture Ministry

Fires torch property, forests

In the first week of February, fires in Phnom Penh and Pursat injured three people, ravaged two warehouses and damaged one school building with two cows inside killed. Wildfires in Siem Reap and Battambang provinces also burned over 100ha of protected forests.

Phnom Penh Fire Prevention and Rescue Police Department chief Prum Yorn told The Post that two warehouse fires had broken out in separate districts of the capital, injuring two men and damaging goods.

According to Yorn, at 8:30am on February 6, a fire broke out in a 16m by 25m metal warehouse in Kamboul district’s Pleung Chheh Roteh commune, destroying shoe glue, thinner and other goods. A 29-year-old Chinese stock manager named Peng Quiyun and a 24-year-old Cambodian driver named Chey Si Thoeun were injured.

The fire was brought under control by 12:30pm, but another broke out in Sen Sok district’s Khmuonh commune where a 5m by 7m auto parts warehouse stood, destroying its contents.

“These two warehouse fires were caused by short circuits,” Yorn said, adding there have been 12 fires in Phnom Penh since the start of the year resulting in two deaths and two injuries.

Buth Ann, director of Fire Prevention and Extinguishing Inspectorate in Pursat province’s Kandieng district, told The Post that a fire had broken out in the Keo Vichey primary school in Kandieng commune.

School principal Uy Leang Hak, 48, sustained minor injuries after he tried but failed to save his two cows which he raised and kept in the school.

“The 6m by 32m school building had four rooms made from wood and roofed with clay and the study materials within were destroyed,” Ann said, adding the fire was also caused by a short circuit.

Meanwhile, Siem Reap provincial Forestry Administration director Mong Bunlim told The Post that a forest fire spread to a plantation of luxury Thnong trees in a protected area, burning 105ha.

Officials are investigating three families living nearby in Angkanh village of Svay Leu district.

Bunlim said: “Forest fires in Cambodia do not occur naturally – they are caused by human activities. We suspect this was a case of arson with the intent of catching wildlife or encroaching on forest land for illegal private ownership.”

“Our officers are currently questioning them one by one to find out the truth.

“People who intentionally cause forest or mangrove fires must be charged with a first-degree forestry or fisheries offence that is punishable by imprisonment from three to five years or five to 10 years according to Article 97 of the Forestry Law and Article 98 of the Fisheries Law, respectively,” Bunlim said.

Srey Ra, director of the Phnom Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary in Battambang province’s Samlot district, said that on February 5 a forest fire had spread to about 2ha of the sanctuary. Ra also suspected the fire of being arson for purposes on land encroachment.

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