The Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries have jointly called on the public to be very careful about using fire as a means of cooking, clearing wild grass or harvesting forest products because wildfires often occur in natural protected areas and biodiversity conservation areas due to these causes each year, especially during the dry season.

In a notice on measures to prevent and curb wildfires in protected areas and biodiversity conservation corridors the environment ministry on January 14 said that in the dry season the weather in Cambodia is generally extremely hot and dry, which can easily lead to wildfires.

The notice said that although Cambodia as well as other countries in the region are all being affected by La Nina weather patterns and natural phenomena that cause wildfires, the risk of human-caused wildfires is also a major and worrisome factor.

“Be extra careful when using fire as a means of disposing of waste in the protected areas and biodiversity corridors and to prepare firebreaks to prevent fires from spreading from one place to another,” the notice added.

The environment ministry said that all capital and provincial Departments of Environment shall instruct relevant sides to implement appropriate technical measures that can ensure the safety of controlled fires by extinguishing the fires and never leaving them unattended and keeping enough water on hand to extinguish any fires they set.

The environment ministry emphasised that intentionally causing wildfires is a fourth-degree natural resource offence punishable by five to 10 years in prison and a fine of 15 million to 150 million riel.

Last week, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon adopted a seven-point plan to prevent wildfires while noting that most wildfires are caused by human activities like burning forest to clear it for agricultural use or burning the stubble in fields between crops as well as using fire to collect honey from wild bees.

He also instructed the fire prevention units of the Departments of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of the capital and provinces and sub-national administrations including community forests, fishing and agricultural communities to all cooperate in preventing wildfires during this year’s dry season.