Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon introduced a number of measures to guide specialised units at the sub-national level and the local community in joining forces to prevent wildfires over this year’s hot summer period.
“Every year, wildfires cause serious problems like the loss of forest resources, flooding and even burning rice crops and villages. This causes severe damage and serious losses to the Kingdom’s rural and national economies, natural resources and environment,” Sakhon said in a letter dated January 6 obtained by The Post on January 11.
Wildfires in Cambodia are frequently caused by human activities, such as burning brush that has been cleared on plantations, burning tree stumps in fields to make it easier to grow crops, creating grasslands for livestock or in poaching attempts as well as to harvest honey from wild bees.
To prevent wildfires, Sakhon said the authorities under the agriculture ministry have to stop everyone from lighting dangerous fires for any reason.
The authorities must work to prevent deforestation, clearing and burning of forests and flooded forests for the expansion of agricultural land because such activities are criminal offences.
When farmers and other need to use fire for legal activities they must notify the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and follow their guidance on the implementation of appropriate technical measures to ensure fire safety.
Those who are engaged in traditional exploration of non-timber forest products and activities such as the burning of resin pits are advised to put out their fires before leaving the area.
When wildfires occur, Sakhon writes in the letter, authorities have to take immediate measures to stop them and make declarations of emergency. The capital or provincial joint forces have to work with the local people to extinguish wildfires and prevent them from spreading further.
The minister warned that those who were found to have caused wildfires due to their activities will face legal action.
Long Sochet, head of the Coalition of Cambodian Fishers, told The Post that he and his team are currently educating community members to participate in implementing Sakhon’s measures to protect the flooded forest around the Tonle Sap Lake.
He added that the flooded forests were necessary for the survival of the fish and had contributed greatly to the livelihoods of people across the country.
“According to the forestry law and the fisheries law, anyone who intentionally causes a forest fire shall be punished by being imprisoned for a term of three to 10 years,” he said.