The Ministry of Environment has told sub-national authorities to urge the public to be mindful when using fire to prevent incidents of wildfires.
Wildfires caused by carelessness is punishable with five to 10 years in prison and a fine of 17-150 million riel ($4,250-$37,500).
The directive came after the predicted high temperatures to be felt in Cambodia and other countries in the region brought by the El Nino.
The ministry on November 6 noted the yearly occurrence of wildfires in natural protected areas across the Kingdom, especially in the dry season.
The statement said: “Wildfires in the dry season are mainly driven by deforestation and land-clearing for agriculture purposes, burning the forest to flush out and hunt wild animals, and human negligence.
“[The authorities] must prevent deforestation, forest clearing and the intentional setting of forests and low-land forests on fire for illegal purposes, which could cause wildfires and could reach people’s houses, state-protected areas and individual infrastructure around the natural protected area and protected bio-diversity corridors.”
Ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra said Cambodia had so far not experienced naturally-caused wildfires.
He said all provincial environment departments must instruct relevant authorities to apply the appropriate measures for combating wildfires, including informing the people to extinguish all fires before leaving the forest and reserving water to be used for putting out wildfires.
“In case of severe wildfire, local authorities must take immediate action by making emergency announcements and requesting provincial authorities to use available resources to effectively extinguish and prevent the fires from spreading,” Pheaktra said.
Ratanakkiri province’s Lumphat district governor Nou The told The Post on Sunday that his district had never experienced wildfires to date, adding that cases of fire in the district were limited to those on rice fields caused by negligence.
Nevertheless, he assured that local authorities were prepared for unforeseen incidents and had warned villagers to be careful weeks ago.
“There have been no incidents so far because we had already warned the people as we have done for many years. If any incident happens, we will be ready to extinguish the fire.
“We have fire trucks provided by the government. We also know where to obtain water [to put out the fire],” he assured.