The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Ministry of Environment issued reminders local authorities to be mindful of preventing wildfires as the dry season approaches.

In a January 6 joint notice, the ministries said that during dry season, temperature are high, making it easy for fires to ignite. Wildfires, which can occur due to natural causes or because of human activities, are capable of destroying vast areas of natural resources. These losses impact both the Kingdom’s environment, and its economy.

The ministries said the most common reasons for humans to start fires are to clear land to plant crops or drive wildlife into traps, to encroach on state owned land or because of simple carelessness.

The two ministries instructed their sub-national entities to raise public awareness about the risks associated with open flames. This could include people cooking or collecting non-timber forestry products, such as honey.

Permission must be obtained from the local department of agriculture and department of environment before a fire is used for any agricultural activities. Officials will provide detailed conditions for each fire, including a plan for the management and extinguishing of the fire.

Water sources should be maintained near all forests for emergency use, while monks – and the public – should be ready to work together to fight any sudden blazes.

The authorities will not hesitate to prosecute anyone who is discovered setting fires.

“An individual who intentionally causes a wildfire must be punished according to the first level of law on forestry and law on fisheries,” said the notice.

“Article 62 of the law on natural protected area states that intentionally causing a wildfire is a level four natural resource crime, punishable by five to ten years in prison, and a fine of up to 150 million riel,” it added.