The ministries of Environment and Interior have jointly established a new working group to review and integrate sanitation and environmental measures into the so-called Safe Village/Commune policy.

The government hopes to inspire residents to address hygiene and solid waste management in communities nationwide.

According to an inter-ministerial prakas, the group is tasked with studying and revising mechanisms for implementing the Safe Village/Commune policy which seeks to promulgate awareness of environmental issues and address evolving situations like crime and public health.

Environment ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra described environmental cleanliness and community hygiene as essential. The task force will provide communities with training and tools to implement practices for keeping villages clean and safe.

“It is important that we foster an integration of knowledge and respect for the environment, including waste management, hygienic living and participation in proper rubbish disposal and clean-up efforts in villages and communes,” he said.

Pheaktra explained that environmental sanitation includes a focus on the management of urban and rural solid waste. The ministry has observed that only 50 per cent of waste is taken to landfills for proper disposal, with the rest burned, buried or dumped improperly, he said.

Preah Sihanouk province’s Commune IV police chief Sam Prak said that in the last three months, the implementation of the Safe Village/Commune policy had been difficult in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, but regular police administrative functions, crime response and scheduled patrols continued unabated.

“Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have seen a resurgence of drugs and drug trafficking problems,” he said.

Cambodian Institute for Democracy president Pa Chanroeun said he recognised efforts by national and local authorities to enact the Safe Village/Commune policy. While there have been some improvements, he said progress remains insufficient.

“Residents of villages and communes face many prevalent problems including drug use and robbery. Traffic accidents are especially troubling as they kill six to seven people per day,” he said.

Chanroeun welcomed further actions by the ministries and was pleased to see environmental upkeep and hygiene becoming priorities.

He noted that local authorities and residents are all stakeholders in these efforts, and implementation should not discriminate or infringe upon the fundamental rights and freedoms of the people.