With incidents of costly human-caused forest fires continuing to occur every year, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has issued an instruction outlining that those responsible for such blazes face three to 10 years in prison.
Signed by Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon, Wednesday’s instruction on preventative measures against forest fires noted that certain activities frequently led to such fires in the dry season.
These included lighting fires as a hunting technique and for clearing land for homes and farming, with blazes often spreading through carelessness.
“Forest fires happen every year, seriously affecting forest resources and wildlife, society and the national economy. Forest fires spread to farmers’ rice fields and their villages, with people sometimes even being killed,” Sakhon said.
To prevent this, the ministry has introduced measures to manage forest and flooded forest land, and protect it from being illegally grabbed after incidences of fire.
All provincial departments and technical units under the supervision of the ministry are to be made aware of the instruction and implement it fully, as are relevant authorities and community networks.
The ministry is to “prevent the use of fire as a means to yield beeswax and honey, the burning of forest and flooded forest to catch wildlife, or for expanding agricultural land”.
However, if fires are necessary, such as for burning resin whole as per tradition or for growing crops, as well as for other legal activities, notice must be given to the provincial Department of Agriculture so instruction can be given on technical measures to ensure safety.
In the event of a forest fire, action must be taken immediately to prevent it from spreading and extinguish it. The strictest legal action must be taken against those causing forest fires.
“Any person causing a forest or flooded forest fire intentionally shall be punished with between three and 10 years in prison,” Sakhon said.
Mondulkiri provincial Department of Environment director Keo Sopheak told The Post on Thursday that the headquarters of the Or Buonloeu protected community in the Srepok Wildlife Sanctuary had been destroyed by fire the previous night.
“We consider the burning down of the Or Buonloeu protected community headquarters by unidentified persons to be illegal and the most immoral of acts,” Sopheak said.