Preah Sihanouk provincial authorities are searching for those who set fire to a large pile of rubbish on a Sihanoukville street in Commune 4’s Village 2 on Monday night.
Provincial officials said the trash was set ablaze illegally, while the local waste removal company insisted the incident was not related to its collection.
Provincial Environment Department director Samut Sothearith told The Post on Tuesday that setting the trash on fire was an illegal act and the authorities were continuing their pursuit of the culprits.
He said they would be fined in accordance with the law and educated on the dangers of such an act, as starting a large fire on the street would harm the road surface and the blaze could spread to nearby houses.
“If the company is slow [to collect rubbish], [people] should contact the local authorities. Burning rubbish piles damages the road and wind could fan the flames, putting local residents’ houses at great risk."
“We are collaborating with the authorities to educate residents and ensure the law is strictly enforced,” Sothearith said.
Kampong Som Waste Management (KSWM) representative Heng Peng Hak said that rubbish collection had not been suspended over the Khmer New Year festivities, with a skeleton crew continuing to operate refuse trucks, but only on main roads.
All staff returned to work last Wednesday, he said.
“Three waste disposal trucks are removing rubbish in Sihanoukville on a daily basis. Today I arranged for two further trucks and we have staff on standby ready to work.
“For a few days after Khmer New Year, there can be a backlog, but the company has tried to address the situation immediately. Even Phnom Penh continues to try to catch up with its waste removal,” Peng Hak said.
Local media were the first to report the blaze on Monday night.
“The fire is likely to spread, and certainly damage the road – because the rubbish pile sits directly on the paved road – if authorities do not come to put it out immediately,” a report said.
Sihanoukville municipal governor Y Sokleng said he was unaware of the issue.
“Burning rubbish on this scale is not a common occurrence but in general the practice is not new. People in the countryside collect leaves and such to burn in the same way."
“We collect waste every day, but sometimes during and after Khmer New Year – for one or two days – there is a shortage of staff and there can be delays in removing rubbish. But after Khmer New Year, everything returns to normal,” Sokleng said.